Austrians save historic Norfolk firm

The future of an iconic Norwich manufacturer seemed secure last night after the ailing business was snapped up by an Austrian company.Lawrence Scott & Electromotors - which has been based in the city for more than a century - went into administration a fortnight ago, with 79 of the company's 197-strong workforce made redundant.

The future of an iconic Norwich manufacturer seemed secure last night after the ailing business was snapped up by an Austrian company.

Lawrence Scott & Electromotors - which has been based in the city for more than a century - went into administration a fortnight ago, with 79 of the company's 197-strong workforce made redundant.

But the outlook was brighter last night for the company's remaining workers, with ATB Group signing a deal to buy the company as a going concern.

ATB Group - which makes electric motors for the coal mining industry - is part of ATB Austria Antriebstechnik, a manufacturer of electrical motors and drive systems. Listed on the Austrian stock exchange, it employs nearly 4,000 people.

Mark Robinson, regional officer of the Amicus section of the trades union Unite, said the initial news sounded positive but there were still a number of unresolved issues.

“We welcome the fact that the business has been saved,” he said.

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“We look forward to meeting the new owners of the business to see what can be done to resolve the situation surrounding the 79 workers dismissed last week.”

Mr Robinson - who has been called to a meeting at LSE this morning - added that the non-payment of wages from the first week in May was another point that the union would pursue.

Charles Clarke, MP for Norwich South, said: “I am delighted that the future of LSE appears to be secure with this purchase.

“I have been pressing all parties to ensure that the business keeps on as a going concern and I will be seeking to meet the ATB Group as soon as possible to establish how best we can help ensure the future strength of the company.”

He added: “I hope that the new owners will recognise the quality of the workforce and review the redundancies that took place 10 days ago.”

In the 1960s, the company was Norwich's biggest employer of manual labour, with more than 3,000 staff.

It is the country's oldest electrical machinery manufacturer, having started operations in 1883 with an order for a dynamo for Colman's of Norwich.

LSE was saved from closure in 2005 when a consortium led by US businessman George Clair bought the business after a year of negotiations with former owner FKI.

But the company needs to find a new base for its Norwich operation, with the lease on its Hardy Road headquarters due to run out next April. FKI, which still owns the land, is keen to press ahead with redevelopment of the site, leaving LSE facing a race against time to relocate.

“We reviewed a number of expressions of interest in the business and this sale represents the best option,” Andrew Pepper, a partner at administrators Kroll, said last night.

“We recognise that this has been a concerning time and we would like to thank all employees for their support.”

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