Geelong bollard ‘Pierrot’ sheds a tear over recent clown show antics at the local offices of Australian Scale Facilitation (parent company of ‘Recharge’), new owner of Britishvolt and the gigafactory site at Cambois.
Geelong in Australia is famous for its wooden bollard sculptures, carved from the piles of an old dismantled pier.
Two weeks ago the Australian Financial Review (FR) reported that ‘Battery manufacturing start-up Recharge Industries has abruptly pivoted from its plan for a Geelong gigafactory, and will first fast-track the multibillion-dollar Britishvolt project that Recharge founder David Collard rescued from administration in February.‘
While this may have at first seemed good news for the revived Britishvolt Cambois project, it caused concern and tears in Geelong Australia, where Recharge Industries is located, and should also raise concerns about the capability and sincerity of Recharge Industries. After all, when anouncing the acquisition of Britishvolt, CEO David Collard expounded on the benefits and sinergy of developing both projects at the same time.
Writing about the Geelong gigafactory, the company website currenty claims “Recharge Industries™ is a fast-moving operation undertaking key activities with military precision. The team has successfully met several major milestones since the inception of the project in 2021 and is continuing with this exemplary rate of progression.”
The Australian FR article notes that “Recharge has redeployed most of its 160 worldwide staff into crunching plans for the 30-gigawatt-hour (GWh) factory in northern England, which sits on a 93-hectare shovel-ready site. The company aims to make batteries in Britain as soon as next year.” A situation which hardly supports the claim of an ‘exemplary rate of progression’ for the Geelong project.
The buyer of bankrupt Britishvolt is Recharge Production UK Limited, with David Collard, the CEO of New York company Scale Facilitation, as the sole Director. Recharge Production UK Limited is itself owned by USA tax haven Delaware based company Recharge Industries llc . which is also a portfolio company of New York based Scale Facilitation
The only impediment to the progress of the Cambois project, Collard claims, arises from Northumberland County Council (NCC)’s originally negotiated Rate-payers’ protection which enables the ‘at cost’ re-possesion of the Cambois site should the promised development not proceed as planned. The Recharge plan is to spin the site into a separate Development Company which would then not be ‘at risk’ as surety for non-performance on requested loans of £250 million from the UK Government. Collard appears ready to play hardball with NCC on the land protections but, as reported on TV streaming service itvx last month, senior figures at the Council were said to be unhappy at the request for change, which they worry could put taxpayers’ money at risk. Collard had told the Australian Financial Review that the delays were the result of the fact the Council “just have a number of cooks in the kitchen”.
Recharge has not yet paid for the Britishvolt land, at first blaming energy supply contracts and now the alleged failure of NCC to re-negotiate the re-possesion clause to Recharge’s advantage.
Possibly related, is the Financial Charge which Recharge Production UK Ltd has taken as security against a loan from A1T1 LTD. A1T1 is a small company registered at Companies House which last year’s accounts show as having no employees and a shareholder valuation of minus £70,000. In the event of failure to repay the loan, the Charge entitles A1T1 Ltd to pretty much everything Recharge Production owns, now and in the future, including ‘any right, title or interest which the Borrower has now or acquires in the future to any land.’
The policemen cometh
A further blow, and more tears flowed in Geelong on Friday when news organisations carried the story that that the Australian Federal Police, investigating possible tax fraud, had raided the North Geelong offices of Scale Facilitation, the parent company of Recharge Industries. The police apparently wore blue gowns and gloves and focused on the seizure of IT and communications equipment. Local news outlet The Australian, with breathtaking Aussie directness and under the headline:
‘AFP raids gigafactory spruiker’s Aussie HQ over tax’ reported, “He’s talked up car battery ‘gigafactory’ plans for Geelong and the UK but the only action David Collard’s company has seen so far was Friday’s raid by the Feds on behalf of the tax office.”
(note: ‘spruiker’ is Australian slang for ‘someone who tries to persuade people to buy something, use a service etc, often in a dishonest or exaggerated way.)
Geelong Staff, presumably now re-assigned to the design of the Cambois Battery Project, had not been paid for two weeks, leading to concerns over company cashflow.
In a statement issued to newspapers, spokesperson for Scale Facilitation denied any wrongdoing, but The Australian now claims that top company staff are heading for the exit door and in the process clearing mentions of the company from their CVs. It also notes that the lease on the Geelong site has apparently lapsed.
Will Recharge turmoil pile up for Blyth?
Scale Facilitation remains optimistic that it will secure enough cash to complete a purchase of the Britishvolt land at Cambois within the next month
Similar to its predecessor Britishvolt, Recharge Industries makes claims to be an Industry leader in key battery production sectors without ever having made a battery. Depressingly for Cambois and Blyth it looks ominously as though this may continue to be the case. David Collard reportedly has signed a deal with Tritax Management, a real estate fund manager 60% owned by financial giant Abrdn. Just over one year ago Britishvolt triumphantly announced ‘a long-term partnership with Tritax and Abrdn that will deliver £1.7bn in private funding.’ Within the year Britishvolt headed into bankruptcy. Have we been here before?
Recharge Industries has dropped plans to make electric vehicle batteries, instead opting to first only manufacture static storage batteries. This may have been behind the recent anouncement by Aston Martin that they had struck a partnership deal with US company Lucid for the supply of electric vehicle batteries. Aston Martin was one of the few companies which expressed an interest in the Britishvolt offering.
Lotus was also a potential Britishvolt customer but the new Lotus Eletre will use Chinese batteries.
‘Levelling Across’ UK government incentives have apparently lured Jaguar Landrover to construct a new battery factory in Somerset.
The Cambois site is recognised as having excellent factilities and potential superb workforce, probably the best in the country, but at the moment the prospects for battery manufacture do seem rather bleak.
Like the Pierrot pile bollard in Geelong we should shed a tear for squandered opportunities, then maybe get angry about how it has been allowed to come to this.