U.S. Firm Buys Waterford

Waterford Wedg-wood announced on Friday, February 27, that a U.S. private equity firm has reached a deal to purchase the company. Deloitte accountants brokering the sale declined to divulge how much the New-York based private equity firm, KPS Capital Partners, would pay for the company. KPS, which has $1.8 billion in investments, specializes in taking stakes in companies meeting head-on what it terms “special situations,” a need for immediate and significant change such as a turnaround, restructure or bankruptcy. A contract was signed on Friday, under which WWRD Holdings Limited, a newly formed company by KPS, will obtain certain Irish and U.K. assets of Waterford Wedgwood. In a statement David Carson of Deloitte suggested that KPS intends to take over the whole company within the next month — but, they said, only if they can buy the company’s non-European operations at the same time, which still remains uncertain. “The receiver and joint administrators are working with KPS to close the Irish and UK transaction and completion is expected in March,” said the statement. Waterford Wedgwood filed for bankruptcy protection last December after their stock plummeted and banks refused to advance more loans amid the global credit crunch. The maker of fine china and glass went into the hands of administrators at Deloitte late last year, with debts believed to total $590 million. Shortly after that two of the major shareholders, Tony O’Reilly and Peter Goulandris, who between them controlled 60% of the company, resigned from the board after spending more than $550 million of their personal fortunes into trying to keep the company going. A few weeks later the Waterford Crystal plant in Co. Waterford was shut down with little warning. It remains unclear if manufacturing will continue in Waterford, or if the 7,700 employees worldwide will be saved. The Unite trade union has welcomed the sale of Waterford Crystal. Workers who have staged round the clock vigils at the Waterford plant for the past four weeks in protest to the closure said they will continue to maintain a vigil until they get answers as to what is the future of the company and their jobs. Waterford union organizer Jimmy Kelly said that, until KPS makes its plans clear, “the sit-in at the Waterford Crystal visitor center — which has done so much to maintain morale and show to the world the passion the workers have for the past, present and future of the company — will continue.” The union has been in dialogue with the receiver and with KPS since the beginning of January. In talks, the trade union has emphasized the need to keep the manufacturing facility in Waterford, the provision of compensation for those who will not be re-employed and the protection of pension entitlements for workers. Waterford acquired Wedgwood in 1986 to form the present company. It listed on the British and Irish stock exchanges, expanded overseas in the 1990s, and bought Royal Doulton in 2005.

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