CASHMERE entrepreneur Belinda Dickson is among those casting an eye over the Barrie Knitwear mill in Hawick after its parent company Dawson International went into administration last week.
Sources have admitted that Dickson, who trades as Belinda Robertson, “has not ruled out” making a move for the business, which was valued at just £600,000 when it went into administration. The administrators confirmed there was interest in the historic mill and there is “no intention” of making redundancies among the firm’s 180-strong workforce. The company continues to trade profitably.
Blair Nimmo, of administrators KPMG, said: “The Barrie business is attractive. It has key ingredients, including 100 years of history, top products and a fantastic customer base. And it does make money. It has a profitable track record.”
The Scottish business turned over £9.7 million in the year ending 31 March, 2012, generating a pre-tax profit of £1.1m. Its main customers are thought to include fashion houses Chanel and Hermes.
KPMG sent initial prospectuses to 40 potential buyers last week, but Nimmo said he had also received several approaches from other firms.
This week, the administrators will send out detailed information on the performance of the business to interested parties, with potential buyers expected to visit Hawick to view the facilities.
The firm’s US business, Boston-based Dawson Forte, is not in administration despite being 100 per cent owned by the defunct Dawson International.
Nimmo said: “The US business trades as normal. It is 100 per cent funded. Ultimately we will want to look at the best way of disposing our interest in it. But it is not under the same time pressure. The main focus is the Scottish business. And it has customers that have to be kept happy.”
The Pension Protection Fund (PPF), which took over the company’s pension liability when it collapsed, will benefit from the “vast majority” of the sale proceeds, Nimmo said. It is thought that the trustees’ demand for £129 million – the so-called “buy-out value” of the pension fund’s deficit – pushed the company over the edge after the PPF rejected a proposal from Dawson’s board that would have prevented the company’s collapse.
Although the firm’s previous owners ruled out a “pre-pack” buyout of the business, Nimmo said new owners “would usually want to retain the existing management to maintain continuity with customers, suppliers and employees”.
Bolton-based Ruia Group, which last month took a 50 per cent stake in the nearby Hawick Knitwear mill, has ruled out buying Barrie.
Speculation emerged that Chanel might consider making a bid, while Chinese cashmere giant Zhongyin is also a potential bidder.
Dickson, who runs the Belinda Robertson Cashmere chain of shops in Edinburgh and London, acquired the asset of lingerie store Boudiche from administrators in 2010.
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