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On the verge of collapse due to bankruptcy or a restart?

In the shadow of the Belgian industrial pride, bus builder Van Hool, the threat of bankruptcy hangs like a dark cloud over the heads of the employees, the local community in Koningshooikt, and the broad Belgian manufacturing industry. The company, known for its high-quality buses and coaches, is on the eve of a crucial turn in its existence, with a bankruptcy declaration expected as early as Monday. However, this situation could lead to an unexpected restart, with Van Hool's future still uncertain.

Jo Brouns, the Flemish Minister of Economy and Work, recently commented on Van Hool's precarious situation, emphasizing that there is still hope for the company. According to Brouns, serious discussions are underway with potential buyers who have a positive view of the future of the bus manufacturer. This optimistic tone was also echoed in reporting by VRT NWS, in which Brouns was quoted as saying: “There are still a number of candidate acquirers who believe in the future”. However, this sentiment is tempered by the resistance of the major banks to the proposed rescue plan, a development reported by De Tijd.

An important complication in the continued existence of Van Hool is the inheritance issue within the Van Hool family. This internal struggle, which has been influencing the dynamics within the company for a long time, seems to be hindering the possibilities for a restart. Two sisters from the family and their respective branches claim to be entitled to a significant shareholding in the company, a situation that complicates the sale of shares and leads to an impasse.

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Van Hool
Photo: © Pitane Blue - Van Hool

This family feud hangs like a sword of Damocles over the rescue process, with the emotional interests of the family members weighing heavily on the business decisions that have to be made. Brouns indicated that the banks play a crucial role in supporting a possible restart, with the support of the Flemish government partly depending on the cooperation of these financial institutions.

The situation comes full circle Van Hool can be seen as a reflection of broader challenges within the Belgian manufacturing industry, where family businesses often face complex succession planning and must find the balance between tradition and innovation. The possible demise of an established company like Van Hool exposes how delicate family relationships and business decisions can influence each other, with potentially far-reaching consequences for the local economy and employment.

While the future of Van Hool still hangs in the balance, hopes for a positive outcome remain, supported by the interest of serious takeover candidates and the efforts of the Flemish government. It now remains to be seen whether this dark cloud over Koningshooikt can be dispelled, and whether Van Hool can make a new start, free from the shadows that the past casts over the company.

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