An Australian battery company has submitted an initial bid to buy British Volt, which produces collapsed batteries, as it seeks to benefit from the close relations established between Australia and the United Kingdom over the past year to save the company.
David Collard, founder of Recharge Industries, told the Financial Times he will tour the Britishvolt site in Northumberland this week and meet British government officials before making a formal offer.
Collard said the UK-Australia free trade agreement and the Aukus security alliance should boost the benefits of combining Britishvolt with his company’s current plan to build a battery factory in Geelong, a coastal city in Australia, by 2024.
“We are the pin that brings it all together,” he said, adding that Recharge already has the backing of Jefferies and another international bank.
The collapse of Britishvolt this month has dampened the UK’s hopes of incubating a leading global battery maker. The company, which was previously valued at £700m, is expected to attract bids of less than £10m.
Collard is competing with dozens of potential bidders for the site, including Jaguar Land Rover owner Tata Motors and DeaLab, a London-based financial group with close links to Indonesia.
Officials are expected to sell off the remains of the company – including its Blyth site and 26 technical staff – by the end of the month.
The Britishvolt was offered £100 million in funding by the UK government before it collapsed, on the condition that construction work commence on the site in Blyth, Northumberland to unlock funds. Collard said Recharge wants to secure that money if it takes over.
Recharge was launched in 2021 by Scale Facilitation, the investment vehicle of a former PwC partner at New York-based Collard that has backed a few startups in the medical tech and green energy sectors.
Collard said Britishvolt approached him six months ago when the British company was seeking financing options, but was then focused on the Geelong site.
He said the company’s strategy has fundamental weaknesses in its business model, including the decision to focus solely on batteries in the electric vehicle market rather than diversifying into energy infrastructure.
He added that Britishvolt had spent a lot of money building its intellectual property for new battery technology and stoking outside expectations of its potential. “It’s a mountainous process starting from scratch,” he said.
Collard said Recharge would likely transfer the lithium-ion battery technology used at the Geelong plant to Blyth to speed up the revitalization of the British site.
That could mean switching technologies to lithium-based batteries, rather than cobalt-nickel as had been planned, but Collard said it would enable Recharge to achieve volume efficiencies by building both stations at the same time.
He said Recharge’s existing global chain of 230 suppliers could be linked up with the UK business to accelerate its launch.
The 38-year-old Australian warned that there was a risk of Britishvolt being taken over by a Chinese company looking to consolidate its control of the global battery market.
Instead, he said, the Anglo-Australian business would provide an opportunity for closer manufacturing relations between the two countries.
“We’re not here to get in and out,” Collard said of Britishvolt’s proposal.
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