Van Hool

Van Hool bankrupt, VDL Group, GRW (Schmitz Cargobull) and Dumarey (again) are interested

08 April 2024

Belgium Van Hool is declared bankrupt. It is (almost) the end of a few months of negative news from the bus, coach and trailer manufacturer. The reason: the money was gone and the debt has grown up to as reported 400 million euros. Attemps to rescue the company failed due to a family dispute about shares that lasted a few decades (!). VDL Group (Netherlands) and GRW, a partner company of Schmitz Cargobull (Germany), have each submitted a binding offer to the trustees. These binding offers are the basis for definitive agreements that can be concluded at very short notice. Within days as the curators stated. The same day, as Belgium newspaper De Morgen reports, a third party, businessman Guido Dumarey, who made an earlier offer days before, also submitted a new offer for a take over together with American ABC, in which the Van Hool family holds a 33% stake.

Van Hool has always proclaimed itself as “an independent manufacturer of buses, coaches and industrial vehicles”. But now the curtain has fallen. The Commercial Court of Mechelen declared Van Hool bankrupt April 8, 2024 and appointed a board of 4 curators. With the binding offer VDL Group would take over Van Hool's bus and coach activities, while GRW, a partner company of Schmitz Cargobull, would be responsible for the industrial vehicles. Van Hool hopefully states in its press release about the events, that “the definitive agreements can lead to a restart of the activities in the very short term and employment of 650 to 950 employees is envisaged, with opportunities for growth in the longer term. More clarity will be provided by the acquiring parties in the coming weeks”. It means a job loss for approximately 1600 employees, mainly at the factory in the city of Koningshooikt. Many of them have worked many years for Van Hool, people with twenty or even thirty years of employment at Van Hool are no exception. In Belgium media many of them reacted disappointed but also resignedly. Many of them saw it coming for some time. According to De Morgen in his new bid businessman Guido Dumarey says he will keep on most of the workforce. The bankruptcy of Van Hool will have great impact on the city of Koningshooikt. Many of its inhabitants are working at Van Hool. The two companies who submitted the binding offer are as Van Hool is, both family businesses. Van Hool sees the binding offers from the VDL Groep and Schmitz Cargobull as, “given the circumstances, the best achievable result for all parties involved”. “Both VDL Groep and GRW made it clear in their takeover bid that they highly value the expertise and experience of Van Hool and its employees in the field of buses and coaches and industrial

vehicles,” emphasized Marc Zwaaneveld, co-CEO at Van Hool. “We are pleased that these two strong international companies can each integrate part of the Van Hool Group. In an initial phase, work would be provided for 650 to 950 employees, employment that could grow in the longer term. Precise numbers will be announced in the coming weeks by the 2 acquirers.” But the new bid by Dumarey will make things more comlex and difficult. The bankruptcy of Van Hool puts an end to a leading company in the Flemish manufacturing industry. the situation in which the company had found itself. Given the urgency of the situation, a short deadline of March 31 was set. Discussions were held with various stakeholders, including banks, government agencies, shareholders, the board of directors, trade unions and potential investors. On March 19, Van Hool was granted temporary protection against its creditors by the Mechelen Commercial Court. On March 25, the company announced that an inheritance dispute within the Van Hool shareholders and family had not been resolved and immediate efforts were made to initiate a parallel process that had already been initiated to explore alternative scenarios. Discussions were intensified with potential acquirers to investigate a possible restart, with attention to all stakeholders and especially to the company's employees. Van Hool was a Belgian independent manufacturer of buses, coaches and industrial vehicles, based in Koningshooikt. The company was founded in 1947. The vast majority of production was destined for Europe and North America. Van Hool had approximately 4,100 employees worldwide, the majority of whom worked at the production sites in Koningshooikt (Belgium) and Skopje (North Macedonia).