Bus manufacturer Van Hool has been declared bankrupt. The information has been stated by the manufacturer itself this morning, 8th April, and the topic got high attention on local media, in particular from De Standaard. The company is set to be taken over by Dutch VDL and German Schmitz Cargobull, but together they would only have jobs for 650 to 950 Van Hool employees.

The industrial duo is the only remaining candidate, after previously West Flemish entrepreneur Guido Dumarey and Dutch company Vlastuin were also in the running, as was reported last week.

Van Hool announced the plan to stop production of city buses (and relocating business in Macedonia) on 11th March. Later on, the company asked for protection from creditors.

UPDATE 9TH APRILE 13:30 CET

Another buyer for Van Hool. With the passing hours came another surprise: according to De Standaard writes another potential buyer for Van Hool’s trailer division has come forward. It is CIM Capital, (founded by scion Marc Van Hool!) willing to take over Van Hool’s trailer division in its entirety and would guarantee 700 jobs in Koningshooit, in fact three times as many as Schmitz Cargobull.

De Standaard writes that “CIM Capital’s offer is much better in terms of employment. According to sources, it would also be higher financially”.

Moreover, CIM Capital’s offer would be complementary to the new offer of the Dumarey Group and the U.S.-based ABC, but it would not be a joint offer.

UPDATE 9TH APRIL, 7.30 CET

Local media report west Flemish entrepreneur Guido Dumarey made a new bid for the take over of the company. He claims his offer is batter concerning number of jobs that are to be saved in Belgium. “It is now up to the trustees to compare which bid is the best,” he is quoted as saying. Apparently, Dumaray is joining forces with US dealer of Van Hool, ABC Companies, as reported on VRT Nws. Dumarey is an entrepreneur with a long history of purchased and relaunched business.

The media adds that Dumarey was contacted by ABC Companies (Van Hool dealer in the US) to make a bid together. He is quoted as saying: “We are bidding together – they 40 per cent, we 60 per cent – for the bus division of both America and Macedonia. In Belgium, we are interested in the service department, the research & development department, (after)sales and the organisation needed to run all those activities”.

Allegedly, the heart of the matter are the 40% shares in ABC that are (were) owned by Van Hool and which ABC would rather not see in the hands of VDL. Hence, according to Dumarey, ABC contacted Dumarey over the past weekend with a view to making a joint bid: ABC would like to acquire 40% of Van Hool’s shares while Dumaerey is interested in Van Hool’s 60% remaining shares.

Van Hool bankruptcy is real

According to trustee Jeroen Pinoy, who has to manage the relaunch of Van Hool, a relaunch by VDL and Schmitz-Cargobull is coming very soon, De Standaard reported on 8th April morning. VDL Bus & Coach stressed once again that the interest is mainly in the touring coach division. VDL Group would be indeed particularly interested in Van Hool’s Class 3 bus business, with potential takeover of the US market, where Van Hool has a good foothold through its dealer ABC Companies.

The acquirers have indicated that “in a first phase they will keep 600 to 900 people employed”, he said at a press conference after the special works council, still according to the newspaper.

At the beginning of the press conference, crisis manager Marc Zwaaneveld had also explicitly referred to the role of the owners. “Unfortunately, due to an inheritance dispute, bankruptcy was inevitable,” he said. “At this moment it is over for everyone, an independent Van Hool is coming to an end.”

In a previous interview Marc Zwaaneveld was asked about trambuses for Paris, showcased at Busworld and whose delivery has just began. Well, future is uncertain: “I think those tram buses are technically beautiful, only they cost too much to make. So as with the other city buses, I think we don’t earn enough from them and so it’s better to stop production. It’s up to the acquirer to decide whether to adopt that strategy.”, Zwaaneveld told De Standaard.

Going into Van Hool’s stand-by orders, there is (there was) the supply of 20 ExquiCity streetcars for Paris (part of the 56-bus framework contract), in addition to the opening of the new Tzen 4 streetcar line planned by the end of the year

In addition, the contract with Qbuzz Netherlands for the supply of 112 battery electric buses is to be completed: 56 units of the A 13-meter Low Entry model and as many of the same battery model, but 1t meters in length. And also “pending” for Qbuzz are 54 units of the same three-axle vehicle.

Van Hool’s future is a national case

“Together with the VDAB (Flemish Employment Service), I will closely monitor the further course of the affair and we will do everything we can to accompany the employees who will find themselves without employment to a new job. It is important not to see the layoff as an end point, but as a green light to new job opportunities,” said Flemish Labor Minister Jo Brouns on Linkedin.

The Flemish employers’ organization VOKA is also drawing the attention and support of Van Hool’s suppliers: VOKA is highlighting the affected workers, including among Van Hool’s suppliers, speaking of 500 jobs at high risk.

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