While the company’s 600 employees face an uncertain future, suppliers and sub-contractors from across the refrigeration and air conditioning industry are still counting the cost of one of the biggest potential UK insolvencies in recent years.
The administrator has not yet revealed details of the total debt but the company was thought to have returned a small profit last year, after losses of over £3m in 2010.
The subsequent appointment of md Mike Nicholas saw a number of changes in 2011 and a reduction of the loss to £673,000 on a turnover of £45m.
Despite a restructuring of its branch network and a number of redundancies, cash flow problems persisted and there were known to have been discussions with prospective buyers with a view to purchasing all or part of the business prior to the administration.
Should the unthinkable happen the UK refrigeration industry will lose one of its longest established names with a lineage dating back to 1903.
Originally formed as TH Wathes in Leicester, it is one of the pioneering UK refrigeration contractors.
In 1998, the Wathes company split into two independent businesses. Wathes Refrigeration became WR Refrigeration and Wathes Air Conditioning became AC2000. This signaled a series of acquisitions of well-known rival contractors – General Refrigeration in 1998, Northampton Refrigeration in 1999 and Westward Refrigeration in 2001.
WR was purchased by the Finnish group Huurre in 2004, which sparked further acquisitions – Trembath in 2005 and the UK service and contracting operations of Hussmann in 2006.
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