60-year-old regional manufacturing giant collapses

A textile manufacturing company that has been operating in the Victorian regional city of Wangaratta for more than sixty years has collapsed into liquidation due to the offshoring of government contracts and an increasingly competitive market.

Bruck Textile Technologies went into liquidation on 11 July, with Barry Taylor and Andrew Needham from HLB Mann Judd appointed as liquidators.

Speaking to SmartCompany, Taylor said in prior years the manufacturer had a turnover of around $56 million.

“More recently to June 2013 it had dropped to about $38 million,” he said.

Taylor said creditors are owed around $7-8 million, with employees’ entitlements estimated to be worth an additional $4 million.

In recent days the textile manufacturer has been accused of deliberately entering into a questionable business arrangement with another company, Australian Textile Mills, to avoid paying 60 redundant workers their entitlements – including annual leave, long service leave and redundancy pay entitlements.

This has caused Federal Employment Minister Eric Abetz to refer the matter to ASIC, and Taylor said as joint liquidator he is instructing solicitors to review the transaction.

“ASIC have been in touch with us and we are assisting them with their enquiries,” he said.

In a statement, Australian Textile Mills chief executive Geoff Parker told SmartCompany Bruck Textile Technologies was a company losing money despite its best efforts.

“With the demise of the local automotive industry and the offshoring of key government contracts, it was not a sustainable business and was incurring ongoing, significant losses,” said Parker.

“Under this strain, in the last six months alone, significant funds were invested by the shareholder to fund day to day activities, which was simply not sustainable,” he said.

Parker said the manufacturer’s board took professional financial and legal advice and decided it either had to liquidate the company – which would have affected more than 200 jobs – or sell the business to Australian Textile Mills in order to retain two-thirds of its staff.

Parker said all creditors will be paid and Australian Textile Mills will take on liabilities of approximately $20 million.

“The Directors of Australian Textile Mills are confident that they have made the correct decision,” said Parker.

“The only other option would have been far more devastating to the local Wangaratta community, creditors and employees.”

Bruck Textile Technologies has a long history in northeast Victoria and Cathy McGowan, the local federal MP, told SmartCompany there has been a huge amount of support shown for the workers both in Parliament and Wangaratta itself.

“The footwear clothing and textile industry is a very tough industry and it’s extraordinarily competitive,” says McGowan.

“This is a wake-up call for this sector in rural and regional areas.”

McGowan says it’s crucial for government to work with business in order to create an environment where manufacturing can reach its long-term potential.

“When businesses get into trouble they have to seek advice early,” says McGowan.

“There is absolutely no point in waiting until the death knoll. In a much bigger context, we need to look at how we can plan for the future of manufacturing.”

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