Alno UK directors ‘off the hook’ as claims top £10m

There will be no further investigations into the conduct of the directors of Alno UK, according to the latest joint administrators’ progress report, which revealed unsecured creditor claims now exceed £10 million.

The report from the firm’s administrators, Gareth Harris and Keith Marshall of RSM Restructuring Advisory LLP, said they had filed the appropriate documentation with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in relation to the conduct of the directors.

But they added that following their “initial assessment” no further investigations were “deemed necessary”.

The news comes as Neue Alno – owned by European investment firm RiverRock – looks to gain a fresh foothold in the UK market. The company is reported to have dropped its prices by up to a fifth by dealers that have reactivated their accounts.

The administrators’ report outlined the progress of Alno UK’s administration in the period between March 21 and September 20, 2018.

It said that the administrators had received two “substantial” claims from unsecured creditors amounting to £1,742,262 during the period, bringing total claims from creditors to £10.079m, with further claims expected of almost £1m and potentially others, too.

These unsecured creditors include trade and expense creditors, the Redundancy Payment Service, a provisional claim from HMRC in respect of outstanding PAYE and VAT – which is yet to be confirmed – and landlords, which have already claimed £1,145,650 with more potentially to follow.

The administrators said that an interim dividend distribution would be delayed while uncertainties over various awaited claims were concluded.

“We expect that these matters should be resolved and that a dividend can be paid within the next three months, subject to receipt of court approval to pay a distribution to unsecured creditors.”

That dividend, should it be confirmed, is expected to be in the range of 10 pence to 25 pence in the pound.

Meanwhile, the administrators said total preferential creditor claims were expected to be in the region of £154,000, most of which will be in respect of arrears of wages and holiday pay, which was paid to employees by the Redundancy Payments Service under the provisions of the Employment Rights Act.

The administrators confirmed that this would be paid in full “once the claims have been verified”.

The report said that customer deposits of £87,511, which had been paid by bank transfer or cheque, remained ring-fenced in a trust account awaiting claim.

But the administrators said they had “insufficient information” about these deposit creditors and believed that it was “unlikely that further claims will be received”.

The report said: “In the absence of any further information it would appear that this surplus can now be paid into the administration estate and be available for the general body of creditors in accordance with legal advice received.”

The administrators urged customers who had bought Alno products through the former UK subsidiary of Alno AG and paid by bank transfer or cheque to get in touch with the joint administrators with proof of payment “at their earliest opportunity”.

Ring-fenced deposits worth £147,605 have already been refunded.

The report also revealed realisations of assets from its retail and commercial ledger, sale of stock, interest accrual and other sources during the six-month period.

It said administrators had recovered an additional £34,199 in respect of payments related to Alno UK’s retail debtors ledger and a further £1,364,931 payments collected from commercial customers.

This brings the total sum received to date from retail customers to £128,738 and £2,188,866 from commercial contracts.

The administrators said they expect a further £261,000 to be collected from Alno UK’s former commercial business over the next three to six months, bringing total collections to £2.4m – £650,000 more than previously estimated.

But further realisations from retail book debts are “expected to be minimal”.

The administrators said they had recovered £133,023 from the former company’s Scottish commercial ledger, which had been assigned to Ayr-based kitchen studio Creative Designs who had been servicing Alno UK’s commercial business in Scotland before the firm filed for administration in September last year.

The report said that £1,399 had been accrued through interest during the period, bringing the total to £1,995, while administrators are waiting for a £1.253m tax refund from HMRC for overpaid corporation tax.

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