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East Anglia: Jobs axed at Unipart Automotive goes into administration

PUBLISHED: 15:22 24 July 2014

Unipart Automotive has gone into administration with the loss of 1,244 jobs.

Unipart Automotive has gone into administration with the loss of 1,244 jobs.

Archant

Nearly 1,250 people, including more than 100 in the East of England, have been made redundant following the appointment of administrators at Unipart Automotive, one of the UK’s largest independent suppliers of car parts.

The company, based at Solihull in the West Midlands, operated a network of 180 branches and distribution hubs trading under the Unipart Automotive, Partco Autoparts and Express Factors identities.

A total of 21 branches, including those in Ipswich, Felixstowe and Colchester, have been sold by the administrators from accountancy firm KPMG to Andrew Page, another of the UK’s largest distributors of car parts and workshop equipment, and a further 12 to The Parts Alliance, saving around 360.

But the rest of the Unipart Automotive business has ceased to trade with a total of 1,244 members of staff, out of a group total of 1,813, being made redundant. Around 200 members of staff have been retained for the time being to assist the administrators.

A total of 10 branches within the East of England, plus a hub operation, are among those affected, including sites in Bury St Edmunds (where nine people have been made redudant), Lowestoft (10), Chelmsford (eight), Cambridge (27), Norwich (12), Bishop’s Stortfor (six) and Rayleigh (13).

Mark Orton, a partner at KPMG and one of the joint administrators, said: “Despite intensive efforts over recent weeks, a sale of the whole Unipart Automotive business could not be reached, and a buyer could only be found for 33 of the sites on a going concern basis.

“Unfortunately, the business had been experiencing financial stress for a number of years, so the level of cash and further operational restructuring required to rescue a more substantial part of the business posed too much risk for most interested parties.

“Our team of employment specialists will be supporting all staff on completing redundancy forms and putting them in touch with job seeker services. We will now be reviewing what options are available for the remainder of the business, such as selling leasehold interests.”

Unipart Automotive also directly supports more than 700 independent, owner-operated garages through its Unipart Car Care Centre programme, in addition to having 19 franchisees. These operations fall outside of the administration and will continue to operate as normal.

Unipart Automotive is no longer part of the Unipart Group, which manufacturers spare parts, having been sold in 2011 to H2 Equity Partners under a deal in which the distributuion business was granted a restricted licence to use the Unipart brand on a limited number of wholesale outlets and car parts.

Although Unipart Group retained an equity stake in the business, a condition of the sale was that the group exercised no control over the Unipart Automotive business.

Unipart Group said in a statement today that it was “saddened” to hear that Unipart Automotive had gone into administration.

John Neill, Chairman and chief executive of the Unipart Group, said: “We are saddened by the Unipart Automotive situation and even though we sold control of this business years ago, we are concerned for the future of the employees.

“We have recently been able to work constructively and collaboratively with Andrew Page and are pleased that they have been able to save 33 branches and around 350 jobs.

“They have a strong reputation for selling high quality products and brands and we look forward to making available a supply of high quality Unipart branded products to Britain’s car owners and Unipart Car Care Centres.”

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