Gigafactory client ‘holding emergency funding talks’

Britishvolt, the start-up behind a £3bn gigafactory in Northumberland, is reportedly in talks with investors to save the business.

According to the Financial Times, the electric-car battery manufacturer needs to plug a £200m funding gap before Christmas to stay afloat.

The company is the client for a 253 acre plant in Cambois, being delivered under a £300m design and build contract by ISG. The contractor’s owner, William Harrison, became a non-executive director of Britishvolt’s board last year.

Britishvolt interim chief executive Graham Hoare told the FT it needed to raise £200m to fund the business until next summer, when the first round of batteries will be sold to clients. He said in “two recent cases” potential investors pulled out at the last minute over fears around “UK market conditions”.

The newspaper said “emergency fundraising talks” were being held with seven new potential investors about options ranging from a minority to stake to a full takeover. Among these is Indian carmaker Tata Motors.

Bloomberg News reported that Slovakian battery company InoBat is also involved in the discussions.

InoBat, which recently announced it intends to deliver battery factories in Western Europe, said it is looking at the north-east of England as a location but declined to comment further.

Britishvolt spokesperson Ben Kilbey said the company did not comment on speculation. He said “several potential scenarios” are being worked on to enable the business to be “strong and viable”.

He added: “It is important that Britishvolt is a success, not only for the circa 300 employees currently working for the company but also for the many thousands of jobs we intend to create at our gigaplant site in Northumberland and our R&D and scale-up facilities in the West Midlands, and for the future of the UK auto industry and the country’s target to become net carbon zero by 2050.

“The ‘Britishvolt effect’ is of huge strategic importance to UK plc and its standing on the global battery map.”

Reports of funding problems on the project first emerged in September, along with reports that construction had stopped on site. The Guardian accessed leaked documents that revealed the project was on “life support”.

The documents were dated two days before the government and private investors signed off on £100m of funding on the project. However, soon after questions about funding came to light ISG paused construction work.

Design changes were quoted as the reason behind this move, and ISG has since said it is still committed to delivering the factory. Recently, Orral Najdari, who led Britishvolt for three years, resigned as chief executive and was replaced by Graham Hoare in a temporary capacity. The battery factory has been delayed to 2025, from an original 2023 completion date.

ISG and Tata Motors have been approached for comment.

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