Dreieich traditional company in difficulty

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As if the times weren’t already uncertain enough. For the approximately 140 employees of Jean Bratengeier Bau GmbH, based in the Buchschlag industrial park, the pre-Christmas period is under a bad star: the civil engineering company, founded in Sprendlingen in 1888 as a flooring company, is in financial difficulties. The Offenbach District Court has started the insolvency proceedings, which are due to open on 1 January. The creditors’ committee set up by the court ruled in favor of continuing the business.

Dreieich – The family-owned construction company is mainly active in the Rhine-Main and Rhine-Neckar areas. It belongs to a group of companies with several subsidiaries and is one of the largest medium-sized road construction companies in Hesse. The company is managed by the fourth generation and deals with projects for public and private clients. For classification: In 2020, Bratengeier GmbH had a turnover of around 27 million euros. Götz Lautenbach does not yet have the agreed figures for 2021, but assumes a similar volume.

The court has appointed the lawyer of the law firm BBL Brockdorff as interim administrator. He is optimistic that a solution can be found to rehabilitate the ailing operation. “The workforce is ready to go along with it. We have not encountered any customer rejection either,” says Lautenbach. “In the meantime, in close cooperation with the management, we have stabilized business operations, prepared the first necessary restructuring measures and will soon develop a feasible continuation concept.” Lautenbach he still doesn’t want to say why the company got into trouble.The investigation into the cause has not yet been concluded.

Layoffs are not a problem at the moment, says Lautenbach, who wants to keep all jobs. Wages are 100 percent guaranteed by the default money until the end of December. This was achieved in close cooperation with the Federal Employment Agency and a bank which pre-financed the salaries. Lautenbach sees progress in the company’s liquidity. Some customers have since met their payment obligations.

Much is conceivable for the future. Lautenbach plans to permanently stabilize the company in the context of a so-called transferable restructuring. To this end, the bankruptcy lawyer leads discussions in all directions. One possibility is the entry of an investor in the form of a participation. Another is a takeover by a competitor, and the group of former shareholders could also play a decisive role. According to Lautenbach, there could be more clarity in mid-January.

Important for the outlook to 2023: According to Lautenbach, major customers have signaled their willingness to place further orders in order to lay the foundations for the planned renovation. A mild winter would be ideal so that operations don’t stop long after the Christmas break. In case things go wrong due to the weather or the economy, short-time work may be an alternative.

According to Johannes Schader of IG Bau, it “looks good enough” for the company. “Let’s hope it continues,” says the union secretary. As for the reasons for the impending insolvency, Schrader has identified at least one: the poor payment behavior of public customers. “Civil engineering companies depend on public procurement,” says the trade unionist. Municipalities, however, often took their time settling bills and often complained about deficiencies sooner. If a construction company has a lot of such “clients”, it can get into financial difficulties. Schader also hopes that the order situation at the beginning of the year will be good.

By Frank Mahn

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