Page last updated at 22:11 GMT, Monday, 5 January 2009

Wedgwood goes into administration

Geoff Bagnall, from union Unity says "the company has not been managed properly"

Iconic china and ceramics firm Waterford Wedgwood has gone into administration after the economic slowdown hit the debt-laden firm.

Deloitte has been appointed as administrator to seek buyers for different parts of the company.

It said failed buyout talks and poor trading meant restructuring could not happen "in an acceptable timescale".

Wedgwood has also requested that its shares be suspended from trading on the Irish Stock Exchange.

And a receiver from Deloitte has been appointed to Wedgwood's Irish arm.

The brands will surely survive under new owners
Robert Peston
BBC Business Editor

"Waterford, Wedgwood and Royal Doulton are quintessentially classic brands that represent a high quality product which is steeped in history," said joint administrator Angus Martin.

"The administration team will be working closely with management, customers and suppliers during this time to ensure operations continue whilst a sale of the business is sought."

The company will continue to trade as a going concern.

Manufacturing jobs

Chief executive David Sculley had earlier said he was "disappointed" some of its UK and Irish subsidiaries had been forced into administration or receivership.

Waterford Wedgwood UK Plc
Wedgwood Limited
Josiah Wedgwood & Sons Limited
Josiah Wedgwood & Sons (Exports) Limited
Waterford Wedgwood Retail Limited
Royal Doulton Ltd
Royal Doulton (UK) Limited
Royal Doulton Overseas Holdings Ltd
Stuart & Sons Limited
Statum Limited

But he was optimistic that a buyer could be found for the Waterford, Ireland-based business, known for its Wedgwood pottery, Royal Doulton and Waterford crystal.

In the UK, Waterford Wedgwood employs 1,900 people - of these, around 600 work in manufacturing at Barlaston, Stoke-on-Trent.

The Irish section has around 800 staff based in Waterford.

In total there are 5,800 employees outside the UK with the biggest manufacturing centre being in Indonesia, where there are 1500 staff involved in production.

Wedgwood has been known as an iconic name in British pottery firm for 250 years, with many households in the UK owning one or more of their pieces.

In 1987 it merged with the similarly well-known Waterford Crystal to create Waterford Wedgwood, an Irish-based luxury brands group.

But BBC business editor Robert Peston has said it is "no surprise" that the heavily indebted firm has floundered.

Sir Arthur Bryan demonstrates the toughness of china inside Wedgwood's factory in 1968

"Waterford Wedgwood's collapse is a resonant event, that speaks of a noxious global squeeze on consumer spending," he said.

"Almost everything that it manufactures is a nice-to-have rather than a must-have.

"And most of us are thinking twice about shelling out on nice-to-haves."

Mr Peston said that although Waterford Wedgwood had more history than most FTSE 100 companies combined, it was not a huge company.

"The brands will surely survive under new owners," added our business editor.

"However what happens to its manufacturing plant - and that of many other companies like it - is what matters.

A Waterford Wedgwood store in Central London
The firm will continue to trade as normal

"Even if in Waterford Wedgwood's case there are just a few hundred British manufacturing jobs at stake, the UK can ill afford to see precious exporting capacity relocated to low-cost, competitor economies. "

Wedgwood is one of the biggest employers in the Stoke area, said Kevin Farrell, chief executive of the British Ceramic Confederation.

"There have been specific problems in the premium dinnerware market and Wedgwood has not been immune from those problems.

"And we've had the period of the credit crunch where really the willingness of people to go out and buy premium dinnerware has been more limited."

'Tireless' efforts

Waterford Wedgwood said it had been focused for some time on the recapitalisation of the company, and, more recently, "on active discussions regarding the possible investment in the company as a going concern".

But the group collapsed after talks over a possible investment in the business failed and potential lenders' patience ran out.

Sir Anthony O'Reilly, non-executive chairman of Waterford Wedgwood, said the board had "acted tirelessly in its efforts to resolve the company's issues as a going concern".

"The principal shareholders have invested in support of this business for almost 20 years. We are consoled only by the fact that everything that could have been done, by management and by the board, to preserve the group, was done."

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