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Troubled Jensen looks to South African move.

Byline: Philip Williams

Flagging carmaker Jensen is in talks with a possible new backer but has closed its Liverpool factory. The company, which finally began producing Jensen cars again last year, is in a huddle with The MacDonald Partnership (TMP), a firm of London accountants and turnaround specialists.

Neither Jensen nor TMP was willing to give details yesterday but on Friday, the company told its 43 staff to stay at home until further notice while a review of the future of the company was undertaken.

Staff were told this would take a week or two.

A spokesman for TMP said it was in talks with Jensen but refused to say whether it was advising the company, backing it financially, taking it over or a combination of all three.

TMP, founded in London by accountant and insolvency specialist Doug MacDonald, advertises all three services to companies which have hittrouble. 'It would be premature to say anything until the review has been completed,' said a TMP spokesman. But a Jensen spokesman appeared to suggest that TMP was the new owner of the ailing concern, based in its heyday in West Bromwich, and one new option was to take Jensen production abroad.

He said: 'No decision has yet been made but the MacDonald Partnership have a base plan which includes looking at relocating production to a lower cost country. 'One of the countries they would be looking at is South Africa.

'An intensive review of the business is under way and no decision will be made until that review is complete, which is likely to take a couple of weeks.'

Jensen's desire to move overseas comes from a financial need to increase production, the spokesman said.

'We had hoped to be in production at higher volumes. This business needed to produce three to four cars per week to break even,' he said. 'We have only been producing two cars per week, which led to the shortfall in cash and the need to find further funding.'

It is not clear who currently owns Jensen, a private company based in Speke but with a registered office in Warrington.

It was taken to Liverpool by Midland-based partner entrepreneurs Keith Rauer and Robin Bowyer, who acquired the company from receivership in 1998.

It was given at least pounds 500,000 in grants by Liverpool City Council and the Merseyside Special Investment Fund to set up in Liverpool but quickly ran short of money and launch plans for the pounds 40,000, 160mph SV8 sports saloon had to be put back.

The car was finally launched in 2000 and started in production the following year.

But only two a week were being produced at the Speke plant and the company was always short of money. Mr Bowyer and Mr Rauer are thought to have brought in other shareholderbackers to keep it ticking over.

Only Mr Rauer is still a director of the company, which one Midland supplier said had been having trouble paying its bills. Having had dealings with Jensen-related companies before, the component supplier put Jensen on a cash-only basis but a mistake by a member of staff allowed Jensen credit on a near-pounds 600 invoice in mid-April. The bill remains unpaid, even though the supplier has now started county court proceedings to recover the money and has served the papers on Jensen.

It is not the first time Mr Rauer has run into debt problems.

Two years ago, two Midland car component companies controlled by Mr Rauer and Mr Bowyer, which had supplied Jensen Motors, collapsed into receivership and nearly 100 staff lost their jobs.

In an extraordinary move, Mr Rauer and Mr Bowyer put baliffs into Creative Tooling at Oswestry and Creative Manufacturing in Redditch to protect the assets of their own pension fund, owed rent money unpaid by the two companies.

The bailiffs distrained an estimated pounds 300,000 worth of equipment to protect the assets from other creditors, who included about 130 West Midland suppliers owed about pounds 340,000, the receivers found.


The scene at the Jensen Motors factory in Speke, Merseyside, after it was revealed that the company has laid off its entire workforce while bosses decide whether to move production abroad
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jul 3, 2002
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