Administrator Johnnie Abraham from Begbies Traynor told FoodManufacture.co.uk that his firm had sold the site assets to Dutch-based auctioneer Troostwijk, but refused to discuss why it had not proved possible to achieve a sale as a going concern.
The site’s doors closed late last year, after Newcastle-based Longbenton Foods (which itself entered administration in March), was unable to meet successive payment deadlines after paying an initial deposit to Begbies, which subsequently rescinded the sale contract and locked the factory doors.
Property consultant Sanderson Weatherall is also marketing the factory site itself (on the Coquet Enterprise Site) for sale, with offers ‘in the region of’ £400,000 invited.
The auctioneer has set a June 28 deadline for offers for the firm’s assets at the “par-cooked frozen potato processing plant”, which include potato roast lines, mashed potato lines, filling/packaging lines and spiral freezers.
Asked what the prospects were for finding a buyer for the equipment and other assets, with a view to restarting production, Troostwijk’s UK representative James Hague said: “It’s unlikely, but yes – it has happened a few times in the past. It’s an outside possibility because all the equipment is still there and is available.
“The object of the administrator was to find a buyer as a going concern in some sort of hived-down form. They obviously failed with that. But we’d have no objection if someone bought everything because we’d obviously get paid more.”
To some extent, the ‘in administration’ tag – was simply a matter of nomenclature in such cases, Hague said, although he emphasised that Northumberland Foods still exists as a registered company.
“We just bought the machinery,” he said, adding that in such cases, the administrator (here Begbies Traynor) was still managing assets such as the company name, its real estate assets and order book, as well as dealing with debtors and creditors.
Local controversy arose when it emerged that Amble staff were owed money by Longbenton Foods when the firm entered administration in March.
About 70 workers hired by Longbenton were given a verbal agreement by the firm that they would be paid for days when they were sent home when production stopped shortly before Christmas, and for bank charges as a result of late wage payments, but had not received monies as of March.
However, a spokeswoman for Berwick upon Tweed MP Sir Alan Beith said that staff at Amble had now been paid most of what Longbenton Foods owed them: “I know that Longbenton Foods’ administrator Joe McLean [based at Grant Thornton's Leeds office] was pretty outraged about the way that employees had been treated, so most, if not all of the claims were settled pretty quickly.”