UK battery startup Britishvolt in talks to sell majority stake

Company says it is hoping to secure long-term funding so it can build ‘gigafactory’ in Blyth, Northumberland

The battery startup Britishvolt is in talks to sell the majority of its shares to a consortium of investors, in a deal that could allow it to continue pursuing its goal of building a UK “gigafactory”.

Britishvolt said it was hoping to secure long-term funding in the talks, which are thought to be with new investors. Bosses at the company have been looking for new funding for several months, after its efforts to build the giant facility near Blyth in Northumberland stalled amid a cash shortage.

Britishvolt declined to name the investors involved in talks or to give further details on the terms of the possible deal. One person familiar with the talks said they involved parties who are not currently shareholders in the company.

The company wrote to existing investors on Monday asking them to approve a request for a new investor to come in to the business to replace existing investors, according to another person with knowledge of the situation.

In a statement on Monday, Britishvolt said it was “in discussions with a consortium of investors concerning the potential majority sale of the company.

“The discussions aim to secure legally binding terms that would provide Britishvolt with the long-term sustainability and funding necessary to enable it to pursue its current plans to build a strong and viable battery cell R&D [research and development] and manufacturing business in the UK.”

Large-scale battery manufacturing is seen as a key part of securing the future of the UK car industry as it transitions away from internal combustion engines towards electric. Aside from Britishvolt, the Chinese-owned Envision Group is the only company building a site that would be capable of making batteries with capacities measured in gigawatt hours (GWh) every year.

Britishvolt hopes to build a 30GWh factory that would rival Envision’s, which is being built in Sunderland. However, Britishvolt’s building work stopped as its focus turned to staving off collapse in the autumn.

The company’s employees initially agreed to take a 50% pay cut as part of urgent cost-cutting measures, although they were later reinstated on full pay.

Britishvolt narrowly avoided entering administration in October after it secured a last-minute injection of £5m from Glencore, the FTSE 100 mining company, which was already an investor. Glencore has a deal with Britishvolt to supply cobalt to the factory, if it is built, and it also has a battery recycling joint venture with the company.

Glencore declined to comment.


Jasper Jolly

The GuardianTramp

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