Austria: Unpaid Wages Signal Trouble for Century-Old Brewery


The longstanding Grieskirchner Brewery in Upper Austria, boasting historical records dating back to 1708, finds itself once again wrestling with financial difficulties. Since the start of this year employee wages and salaries remain unpaid, suggesting the looming specter of insolvency.

Rising energy and packaging costs, particularly concerning disposable bottles, have erected substantial financial barriers for the company. Although the brewery confronted insolvency in 2020, it successfully stabilized by the end of 2022 through a restructuring process conducted under self-administration, securing a 30 percent quota. "We've managed to recover quite well economically. But what happened last year with the energy crisis simply blew a huge hole in our finances," remarked CEO Marcus Mautner Markhof.

Unexpectedly high costs, totaling €800,000 for energy and packaging, blindsided the company, precipitating the current liquidity crisis. Moreover, delays in disclosing actual gas and electricity expenses further compounded the situation. Nevertheless, the company's revenue surged by 12.5 percent.

Hailing from the renowned beer, yeast, and mustard dynasty of the same name, Mautner Markhof assumed control of the brewery in 2013.  Before he bought the Grieskirchner Brewery, he directed the fortunes of the family businesses in Vienna-Simmering from 1994. As owners of the Schwechater Brewery, the dynasty belonged to the founding families of Brau AG which is now as Brau Union part of the Heineken Group. However, Marcus Mautner Markhof comes from the "spice branch" of the family. and is now once again in search of solutions to shore up liquidity. He discusses the possibility of attracting an investor as one avenue. Despite injecting his own funds last spring, he disclosed to the Oberösterreichischen Nachrichten that the house bank declined further loan extensions. An endeavor to sell a property faltered due to Upper Austrian building regulations.

Recent weeks have witnessed renewed turbulence within the company. Mautner Markhof acknowledged liquidity challenges in early February. Sadly, the 34 employees endured a month without pay in January, with reports from ORF indicating that outstanding payments remained unresolved by the end of February. Indications of insolvency have become increasingly conspicuous.

Markhof conveyed to ORF that it might take up to two months before outstanding wages and salaries are settled, potentially drawing from an insolvency compensation fund.

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