Firm buyer search goes on

PUBLISHED: 12:04 28 January 2015

Archant

NO PROGRESS has been made to find a buyer for the beleaguered Woodberry Brothers factory in Highbridge, six months after the firm went into administration.

Last July, 163 of the 175 employees of the Walrow Industrial Estate furniture company were laid off as it was taken over by PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) after prolonged financial difficulties.

At the time, a PwC spokesman told the Mercury ‘numerous parties’ had expressed an interest in taking over the business, which has been a mainstay in the town since 1949 and maintained a turnover of around £10million despite its financial troubles.

The firm closed its doors in the wake of what PwC called a ‘need to restructure’, but an inability to do so because of the ongoing lack of investment.

A representative of the financial services business said this week said there had been little movement on any potential buyer, with ‘nothing imminent’ on the horizon.

They said: “Everything is still carrying on exactly as it was before. As with any job like this, there will be interested parties coming in and out of proceedings.

“But until there is anything concrete we cannot say any more, and there is nothing imminent to be announced in the coming weeks.”

Real estate company GVA has been brought in to help sell the company’s factory, which stretches to around 500,000sq ft, and although director Paul Hobbs proposed a business park as a possible redevelopment opportunity, offers have not been forthcoming.

Burnham and Highbridge town councillor Pat Burge, who represents the Highbridge ward, said it was a ‘shame’ to see the firm remain in difficulty for more than half a year.

She said: “I think some people have managed to get new jobs, and some were approaching retirement age anyway.

“It seems a real shame that such a big place has been left empty though. You would have thought someone would take it on, even for storage.”

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