While KPS Capital Partners are clearly in the running for the purchase of the Waterford Crystal group, they will have competition in the UK for buying Wedgwood.
The latest generation of the Wedgwood family now appear to be in the running to buy the Wedgwood group, which will mean retaining one of the factories in the Stoke area, popularly known as the Potteries. Some Middle East money is there supporting the Wedgwood family purchase.
As you read elsewhere they see it as tragic that Wedgwood has closed so many factories, outsourced so much to the Far East and lost its way as a premium brand.
Apparently bone china was popular in China and came to England and Ireland through the popularity of tea drinking.
The English decided then to make its own China and the Stafford area of England in the north west midlands had the clay suitable, fired by the industrial revolution. In 1759 a new device was discovered to heat large ovens, then a craft industry became industrial.
Workers in Waterford Crystal will watch with keen interest what will happen there. There are also moves in Germany too in relation to the group.
The Rosenthal firm in Germany went into legal administration over a week ago. No doubt a German bid will be re-ignited, this was to be agreed in the late autumn but the board of Waterford delayed a decision on the sale. In hindsight this was a mistake as the sale price has now dropped with the legal administration.
There will be pressure there too to retain as much manufacturing as possible in Bavaria and halt the outsourcing.
Here in Waterford, the signs are beginning to improve that there will be a retention of the Waterford facility and that the worst hopes will not be realised of a full closure. The Waterford brand name is too strong for this to happen.
We are amazed that some commentators in Dublin seem to encourage more outsourcing and less production in Ireland, when the British are taking the opposite view for Wedgwood. Where is our nationalism today?
Retaining production in Waterford needs to be a goal not just for the receiver but also for the new owners. The Waterford factories are very efficient and can compete.
It is also very important to retain the skills of design and glass making here for the future, some new cutting edge design may be the secret of the new fortune to be made in this business. The new owners will want to make money but will need to keep the strengths of the business intact.
The government and our Minister Martin Cullen need to emphasise this point frequently.
We understand that short time working is now happening at Waterford due to over-stocking and this could go on for a number of weeks or maybe months, till the ownership position is clearer and the receiver recoups money from the sale of stock. Maintaining production at the factories is paramount. Brands do need heritage and tradition, when they have the prestige of Waterford.
We know of one other famous Irish name where watches are made in China at extremely low cost, sold for a multiple of the figure, but prove so unreliable that many jewellers will not repair them, as the material is so bad.
This is how a brand value can be damaged. Outsourcing can have its disadvantages. The pension issue remains unresolved, with stock markets falling as a result of the bank crisis the deficit will remain, so this matter could drag on for a long time.
Pension experts will be trying to design a compromise solution so that all parties get a share, the pensioners are secured by law on receivership or on a wind up, but consideration needs to be given that there is some improvement for those waiting on pensions. They may not get what was expected a number of years ago, due to deficits and stock declines, but a liveable income could be secured.
The Government are also looking at this matter and seeing what can be done.