By Christine de Kock
FELTEX workers in Tottenham and Braybrook are concerned about their job security after news that Australian carpet manufacturer Godfrey Hirst is interested in buying the company.
Sleepyhead, New Zealand mattress manufacturers, have also expressed interest in Feltex.
Feltex spokesperson John Walsh said the interest in the company was because of the company’s need to address its $128 million debt.
“The debt situation is such that the company must find a way of addressing it either through recapitalising, equity raising through sale of all or part of the business,” he said.
“The bottom line is the debt situation must be addressed.”
Michelle O’Neil, secretary of the Textile Clothing Union of Australia, said the union was seeking assurances, on behalf of workers, about job security from all three parties.
“All the workers want security about jobs and their entitlements in any new company structure,” she said.
Feltex employs 465 people in the City of Maribyrnong, 150 people at its Braybrook Carpet Production plant, 150 people at the Tottenham manufacturing plant and 165 people at their headquarters in Tottenham.
Feltex, a New Zealand company employs 520 people in Australia and 820 people in New Zealand.
Godfrey Hirst is in the process of due diligence, which is expected to be completed later this month.
“Our offer then requires approval from various regulatory authorities in Australia and New Zealand,” Godfrey Hirst’s finance director Jim Walsh said.
“And of course our offer would need to be approved by shareholders.”
He added that the offer would be “fair”.
“We have made it quite clear that our offer is fair to staff, shareholders and creditors, is fully priced and is fully funded, particularly in view of Feltex’s financial position.”
He added Godfrey Hirst “made it clear in our offer that the entitlements of creditors and workers would be met”.
The principals of Sleepyhead, brothers Craig and Graeme Turner, said in a statement that they expected to complete due diligence of the Feltex books by 21 August.
“Feltex shareholders and staff have faced enough uncertainty and we will be looking to circulate our detailed proposal in late August or early September setting out the future we see for Feltex with their support.”
The brothers also stated that they did not want to see another “fire sale” of an iconic New Zealand brand.
Feltex closed its yarn operations in Braybrook last October.
The closure resulted in the loss of 205 jobs.
The company had operated in Braybrook for 60 years as a producer of yarn and carpet.
By Christine de Kock