Crane comes down in Norfolk

The strong pound, a significant downturn in orders and increased competition has been blamed for the closure this week of Norfolk-based trailer maker, Crane Fruehauf.

Stephen Oldfield and Steve Ellis of PricewaterhouseCoopers were this week asked by the directors of Crane Fruehauf to become joint administrators of the East Anglian trailer maker.

Crane Fruehauf, a manufacturer of articulated lorry trailers, trades from a site in Dereham, Norfolk, where it employs around 370 staff and has an annual turnover of around £37 million.

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, the company experienced a significant downturn in demand over the past six months. With fewer orders to chase, Crane Fruehauf was also hit by a strong pound and suffered a decline in forward orders. Its margins are also said to have come under pressure from increases in steel prices, a key raw material.

Following significant trading losses, the company announced 16 redundancies in December 2004 and a further 70 in early January 2005 as it attempted to reduce costs.

On January 31 the company announced that it could no longer afford to continue trading, resulting in the loss of 345 jobs. A skeleton staff of 25 will be retained to work with the administrators and their team.

A separate company, Fruehauf Parts and Service Limited, which operates from South Green in Dereham, is unaffected by the administration appointment.

“The company’s employees have endured increasing uncertainty, with wages only just being paid in January and earlier rounds of redundancies affecting colleagues,” commented Stephen Oldfield, joint administrator and partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Norwich.

“Unfortunately, with insufficient cash to pay February’s wage bill, we could not continue to trade the business and regrettably these redundancies have had to be announced. Efforts will be made to try and find a buyer for the business, probably in a reduced form.”