Germany/Switzerland: Thielmann Ucon asks for insolvency protection proceedings

Thielmann Ucon GmbH in Hausach, Germany, has asked for insolvency protection proceedings (“Schutzschirmverfahren”) as per Article 270b of the German Insolvency Statute. MarcPhilippe Hornung, insolvency and restructuring partner at Schilling, Zutt & Anschütz, Mannheim, Germany, was appointed provisional administrator.

Thielmann Ucon is a subsidiary of Thielmann Portinox Spain S.A., Granada, Spain and is according to their own statements “one of the world's leading manufacturers of stainless steel containers and specializes in the production of containers.”

In the brewing and beverage industry the name Thielmann is especially known for its returnable stainless steel beer kegs. Thielmann is one of three major business activities of Heritage B Group, registered in Zug, Switzerland, with TEKA (leading kitchen supplier for high-quality built-in appliances and kitchen sinks as well as a wide range of kitchen fittings) and Strom (Supplier of high-quality, design-oriented fittings for the bathroom) being the other two activities.

With the restructuring process, the company is aiming for a strategic realignment of the production site in Hausach, Germany. In addition to increasing productivity and flexibility in the production processes, the degree of automation is to be increased as part of the process and an adaptation to reduced market requirements is to be made. The declared aim is to secure the permanent workforce at the site in the long term.

"We are still fully active in production and will continue to be so in the future," says managing director Igor Ferlan.

The financial situation for the Thielmann business has not been easy in recent years. In its consolidated financial statements for the financial year 2019, Heritage B reported that Thielmann “[has] been facing some headwind from the markets (e.g. tariffs on stainless steel imports in US [, 31.5.2019], a more cautious spending environment for investment goods), which led to a reduction in [the] main product category beer kegs which could only partially be compensated by other product categories. […] Tough being still on a smaller scale, financing solution for containers (e.g. rental or leasing) are becoming more and more popular and we are seeing a strong growth in this category.”

On 9 April 2019 Heritage B issued a letter of comfort to ensure the liquidity of Thielmann Ucon “to avoid future over-indebtedness by the way of subordination.”

In 2020 Thielmann and the whole industry was severly hit by the COVID19 pandemic. Temporary closures of pubs and restaurants further decreased the demand for kegs and continued to deteriorate the company’s financial situation.

As of 1 November 2020 Thielmann’s CEO Dr. Bernd Loeser was replaced by Dr. Manfred Zurkirch.

“The initiation of the now started restructuring became necessary after the company had made significant losses due to a corona-related decline in demand in 2020 and was no longer able to bear the financial burdens in the long term,” reads a notice of the provisional administrator.

"Given the given conditions and due to the good preparation, I see good prerequisites for a successful course of the procedure," says Marc-Philippe Hornung confidently.

The insolvency protection proceedings is similar to chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code and offers debtors the opportunity to conduct their own restructuring process in the period between filing for insolvency and opening of the insolvency proceedings. Within a period of up to three months and supervised by a provisional custodian the debtor must develop a reorganization plan that can be implemented later on as an insolvency plan.

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