Struggling Waterford Stanley gets €14m in aid from US owner

Middleby restructures loss-making stove brand, outsourcing almost all manufacturing

An Aoife stove by Waterford Stanley

An Aoife stove by Waterford Stanley

 

Middleby, the Nasdaq-listed owner of the range and cooker maker Waterford Stanley, has made available €14.1 million to support the loss-making business, one of Ireland’s oldest manufacturing brands.

Documents filed at the Companies Registration Office (CRO) show that Middleby, which acquired the Waterford Stanley brand when it bought Aga-Rangemaster three years ago for £129 million, has funnelled the cash to the Irish company via a UK firm, Headland UK.

Headland then loaned the money at the end of June to Furdo, Middleby’s Irish holding company for Waterford Stanley. Further filings show that the operation has since drawn down €5.6 million of the cash.

Middleby has totally restructured Waterford Stanley since acquiring the brand in 2015. It has stripped out and outsourced almost all of the manufacturing from the brand’s southeastern base, which is now essentially just a sales and distribution hub for the brand.

Last crop

The cast-iron Waterford Stanley stoves and cookers and ranges are now made abroad. The last crop of about 30 local manufacturing workers were let go from the Waterford plant in December. A small team of sales and administration staff are all that remain onsite.

When Middleby bought the brand, more than 100 staff were employed in Waterford, although at that stage much of the manufacturing had already been moved to another Aga-Rangemaster plant in Shropshire in the UK.

The latest financial statements filed by Waterford Stanley outline the difficulties faced by the brand. Its directors bemoaned the tough trading conditions, due to heavy competition.

In 2016, sales at Waterford Stanley fell almost 20 per cent to €17.5 million, while the business made an operating loss of close to €1 million. A €1.4 million accounting credit due to the restructuring of its pension scheme pushed it back into the black.

Further restructuring

The directors warned, however, of possible further restructuring, which was borne out months later when almost all of the remaining manufacturing staff were let go.

No response was received from Middleby’s head office in Illinois to a detailed set of queries about its plans for the future of the Waterford Stanley brand.

Middleby, which makes commercial and industrial kitchen equipment, has annual revenues of about $2.3 billion. It has been listed on the Nasdaq for two decades. Its industrial brands include Viking and Nieco, while it also owns a suite of other consumer equipment brands, such as Rayburn, Aga and Lynx.