Search form

menu menu
  • Daily & Weekly newsletters
  • Buy & download The Bulletin
  • Comment on our articles

Van Hool heads towards bankruptcy, possible takeover looms

10:16 29/03/2024

Bus manufacturer Van Hool is heading for bankruptcy, followed by a potential takeover and restart of the business, management suggested at a press conference this week.

The plant tried to avoid bankruptcy by negotiating with the Flemish government and a deadline of Monday was set for reaching an agreement on the dispute within the Van Hool family. That deadline was not met.

“In these circumstances, we have had to conclude that it is no longer possible to implement the rescue plan,” a company spokesperson said.

After an extraordinary works council meeting, management confirmed that a “parallel approach” was being studied wherein operations could be restarted with a possible buyer. There are currently three candidates, all of which are European.

“This is only feasible in a bankruptcy scenario,” said the spokesperson, “We’re going to mobilise to save as many activities and staff as possible, but in the end it will be up to the buyer to make a decision.”

Van Hool will work towards a solution “to the last breath”, the spokesperson added, saying the expected bankruptcy should take place soon after 31 March.

Management is calling on staff to continue working to promote a potential recovery and unions are appealing to management that they “offer staff a future,” expressing disappointment at the new plan for bankruptcy and partial resumption of activities.

“We call on all parties to show responsibility in offering a future to the workforce,” the unions said. “[The company has] hit rock bottom and in the end, it's the thousands of workers who are paying the price.”

The Flemish government is also the subject of blame, according to unionist Kim Samison.

“They obviously prefer to buy Chinese… Politicians have spent their time criticising us rather than supporting Flemish industry within the framework of sustainability objectives,” said Samison.

“A Van Hool electric bus was still on show at an event organised by the Flemish agency for technology and innovation, which is extremely cynical.”

Meanwhile, Samison said staff in recent weeks have shown “great responsibility” and continued to work “calmly”.

The Mechelen branch of the Flemish employers' federation Voka said it was important to give a takeover of Van Hool a chance, “whatever form it takes”.

“If a takeover is unsuccessful, we must be ready to do everything we can to keep workers and added value in the region,” Voka said.

Written by Helen Lyons