Ross and Bonnyman back in business

Ken Pattullo of Begbies Traynor (front left) and Colin Laird, managing director of XL Group (front right) with members of staff in the background.
Ken Pattullo of Begbies Traynor (front left) and Colin Laird, managing director of XL Group (front right) with members of staff in the background.

THREE weeks of speculation regarding the future of a long-established Forfar family business ended last Friday when it was announced the assets of Ross and Bonnyman had been bought over by a new company.

Ross and Bonnyman XL Ltd., part of the XL Group, a Scottish company with headquarters in Aberdeen (and not related to the original Ross and Bonnyman company) have purchased the assets of the 39-year old Forfar business which was placed in provisional liquidation on February 2.

The closure of a major manufacturing plant and the loss of its skilled workforce was lamented by local politicians and was raised at First Minister’s Question Time by Angus North and Mearns SNP MSP Nigel Don.

Now it has emerged at least 30 jobs will be created at the new business which is due to re-commence activity “as soon as possible.”

Rumours abounded at the beginning of the year that the doors of the Roberts Street business would close, which was confirmed at the beginning of last month.

However, provisional liquidators David Menzies and Ken Pattullo of Begbies Traynor have worked tirelessly to complete the assets sale from the Forfar business which is one of the UK’s market leaders in the design and manufacture of lifting solutions and specialist products including yard lifts, mezzanine lifts, dock levellers, lifting decks, ambulance lifts and access ramps. The former £7m turnover company supplies the distribution, retail, service, food and drink and rental sectors as well as local authorities. Its products can be found on commercial and passenger vehicles throughout Europe.

The XL Group is an international multi-discipline technology company with operations in Runcorn, Canada, Colombia and Abu Dhabi, providing systems and service to the oil and gas, petrochemical, utilities and industrial manufacturing sectors.

Provisional liquidator Ken Pattullo said: “Due to lack of cash flow, it was impossible for Ross and Bonnyman to continue trading after it was placed in provision liquidation; regrettably, there was no option but for the factory to close and all staff to be made redundant.

“However, with its excellent reputation and market leading products, we were optimistic that we would be able to find a buyer for the assets and, importantly, the intellectual property used in the business; we are delighted that our confidence has been vindicated.

“This is the best possible outcome in the circumstances, with the prospect of the factory re-opening and new jobs being created.

“We were able to generate a great deal of interest in Ross and Bonnyman and swiftly completed a deal in order to cause minimum disruption to any future product supply. We understand that the purchaser intends to re-commence activity at the factory as soon as possible and is likely to require around 30 staff.”

Colin Laird, managing director of XL Group added: “The addition of the Ross and Bonnyman name to XL Group is a great bonus. It is a market leader in its field and will complement the other services provided by the group. Plans are already underway to re-open the Forfar factory which is good news for the local community and we plan to increase our workforce throughout the group to over 100 over the next year by recruiting additional mechanical, metering and software engineers.”

It is believed that Ross and Bonnyman’s financial difficulties stemmed from an inability to adjust the overhead base quickly enough following the sale of the commercial vehicles spare parts division of the business last year to Ratcliff Palfinger, which resulted in Forfar job losses, together with a reduction in orders due to retail superstore and warehouse expansions being slower than anticipated and public sector spending cuts affecting the ambulance lifts part of the business.

In welcoming the announcement that the assets of the firm had been bought, Angus Councillor Bill Middleton spoke of his delight that valuable manufacturing jobs in the town had been saved.

He told the Dispatch and Herald: “I am delighted to hear the news that the firm is to be taken over. I was always hopeful that that would be the case, particularly as the jobs are very skilled. I know it’s only 30 jobs at this particular time but hopefully if this proves to be as successful as I would wish, possibly others could be taken on.”

Councillor Middleton met with the provisional liquidators the day they announced the doors would close, and at that time he was aware there was some interested in the business.

He continued: “They told me as soon as the announcement was made that expressions of interest had been recorded with the administrators. That was very hopeful and I am delighted this has come to fruition.

He spoke of Forfar’s proud manufacturing history and added: “Manufacturing jobs are becoming a scarcity, as far as I am led to believe, throughout the country. Forfar has always been renowned for its manufacturing jobs and hopefully that trend will continue. We can’t afford to lose these particular skills in the community as once they are gone they are lost forever.”