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PCB | August 04, 2009

Potential investor for RUWEL plant Geldern found

After Bernd Zevens, the Kleve entrepreneur and former owner of RUWEL, had submitted an offer to take over the RUWEL plant in Pfullingen as of 1st September 2009, BlueBay now signalled their willingness to continue their involvement in the Geldern location under certain conditions.
BlueBay have a worldwide network at their disposal and would possibly be willing, together with an Asian partner, to take on responsibility for approx. 220 jobs in a new company as a future majority shareholder in Geldern. BlueBay have now informed Horst Piepenburg about this in a Letter of Intent.

Whether this will in fact happen will ultimately depend on a number of conditions being fulfilled. One crucial point for the potential investor will be the question of legal certainty in relation to the number and make-up of future employment contracts. The possibly future new owners are demanding on the one hand that the approx. 200 pending actions against ‘unfair dismissal’ be clarified first of all. On the other hand, the history makes it clear that any further involvement in the Geldern location, with unchanged conditions and existing cost structures, cannot be expected and for a potential buyer would also be out of the question.

"You have to realize", explained Horst Piepenburg, "that there is simply not enough work for 420 employees in Geldern. How should future investors manage to pay them?" On the other hand, the insolvent PCB producer is also not in a position to make redundancy payments, as is without a doubt documented by the status of insolvency.

The insolvency administrator is in a position to continue operating the Geldern plant on his own until the end of the year. "But that's the end then", Piepenburg makes it perfectly clear. In September RUWEL's major customers traditionally send out invitations to attend the annual price negotiations for the coming year. "If we have not presented an acceptable longterm solution for the Geldern plant by then, we shan't be invited to attend those discussions in the following year. In that case, the order situation would collapse in January at the latest and it would no longer be possible to continue production", explained the insolvency
administrator.

On the other hand, there is an historical chance with the prospective solution – subject to the approval of the cartel authority: a European producer of printed circuit boards for the worldwide automotive industry, with an Asian partner having his own production capacities in his home region, would at long last have the opportunity to assume the role of "global player" for this market segment, as RUWEL customers have wished and demanded for years.

There are still no other interested parties for RUWEL, and so time is running short. "The employees left at the plant after half the workforce had been dismissed at the end of April have fought unbelievably to save the company", enthused Horst Piepenburg.

"Thanks to their efforts and the resultant orders received they have already managed to fetch quite a number of their former fellow workers back into the company. And they are still fighting for every single job", said the insolvency administrator happily, but he pointed out: "You have to give a new company a chance to stay alive. In the pending actions against ‘unfair dismissal’, every plaintiff may hear that his dismissal is invalid, but continuation of employment can only be enforced if work is actually available. And that is where we have reached the limit."

The administrator admitted that with the present continued employment of 220 persons he has reached the limit of the acceptable volume. The sales projections cannot stand up to any more personnel costs. "We now need to talk quickly and come up with solutions, otherwise it will soon be too late for everybody!", Piepenburg called for level-headedness, and declared. "We are working flat out on a proposal that also takes into consideration the interests of the dismissed employees."

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