German porcelain manufacturer Rosenthal, which filed for insolvency after parent company Waterford Wedgwood went into administration early last month, is still hoping a ‘white knight’ will come to the rescue.
Former Rosenthal chief executive Herr Kuesel says an international investor remains interested but the required state support is not guaranteed.
Bernd Posselt, the German MEP, and a spokesman on Foreign Affairs, says the takeover of one of Waterford Crystal’s sister firms is not a done deal.
Munster MEP Colm Burke told this newspaper that the issue of state support is difficult under EU law. However, the French and Italian Governments in the past have managed to support nationalised airlines and other industry if they were felt to be strategic in nature.
The Rosenthal AG firm, established 125 years ago (like the GAA) and bought by Waterford Wedgwood plc in 1997, has until the end of the month to come up with a buyer for the plants and brands.
The brand, and the rights to same, is under the control of the Bank of America (Wedgwood’s main lenders), according to the Welt newspaper in Germany.
Provisional insolvency administrator Volker Boehm from Nuremburg said in an interview that wages will be paid on time to Rosenthal staff up to the end of February. In Germany these funds come from the Government’s bankruptcy office; though after this period the situation could become grim.
He is in contact with accountants at Deloitte, currently liquidating the parent company in Ireland, and with employees, customers, suppliers and creditors.
People’s “nerves are shot,” said trade union representative Hartmuth Baumann – a sentiment that will be appreciated here at home. “More than a few people feel deceived. The workers here are really flexible, ready to sacrifice.”
German television is following their situation closely, and a crew was in Waterford this week to shoot a documentary on Rosenthal’s collapse. Councillor Joe Kelly, a Crystal worker, showed them around the plant.
Mr Baumann says many ceramic workers have lost their jobs elsewhere in the region and there are not many other openings. One observer said the people of Selb, the town on the Czech border where the factory is based, are ‘almost made of porcelain’.
Like Waterford, the future is very uncertain, but at least here there are offers on the table. This has not yet emerged in Germany and hence the politicians, ex-CEO and workers are getting very anxious.
As with Waterford, further job cuts were planned prior to the bankruptcy, reducing the workforce to 1,350, and another 300 were anticipated across administration and elsewhere in production.
The Bavarian company employed 5,000 people in the 1980s; a time when Waterford Crystal had more than 3,000 on the payroll between the city and Dungarvan.
The insolvency experts have a team of 12 overlooking Rosenthal’s books. It is hoped that the new strategic investor from outside the industry will not just buy the brand but still make ceramics.