Workers abandon bankrupt carmaker

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Norway’s long-struggling electric carmaker Think has survived several earlier bankruptcies but now its future as a Norwegian firm seems to be over. Think’s laid-off engineers have lost faith following the latest bankruptcy in June and reports that the company’s remains have been sold to Russian investor Boris Zingarevich and the companies Ener1 and Valmet.

Think cars, like this one spotted along the Oslo Fjord recently, have proved popular with electric car enthusiasts but future production is once again unclear. PHOTO: Views and News

Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) has runs a series of reports this week that Zingarevich emerged as the successful bidder for Think’s estate, beating out, among others, Turkish investors who since have called the pending sale “a big mistake.”  The sale was supposed to be confirmed by Zingarevich on Wednesday but that didn’t happen.

Jo Rodin, the Norwegian bankruptcy administrator handling Think’s estate, told DN he didn’t know when the buyer (whom he has not identified publicly) would issue a confirmation of the purchase. “But the estate has received what it had coming,” Rodin told DN. “Only a few details remain now.”

Zingarevich has been involved with Think since 2009, when his electric car battery maker and Think creditor Ener1 opted to convert debt to shares in Think. Now it’s believed that Zingarevich will move Think’s engineering staff from Oslo to Munich. Egil Falch Piene, who was the engineers’ employee representative at Think, says few if any are likely to follow.

“If anyone from Think enters into a contract with the Russians, it’s because they haven’t found new jobs elsewhere,” Piene told DN. He said the Russians led by Zingarevich lack the confidence of Think engineers.

“Zingarevich’s representatives in Think have portrayed him as a kind uncle who will save Think,” Piene said. Instead, he believes Zingarevich is merely trying to use Think’s respected brand in the market to boost Ener1s reputation and share price. Piene claimed Rodin “chose the path of least resistance” in selling the bankrupt company’s remaining assets to Zingarevich.

Piene said he and his former colleagues at Think were disappointed to learn that control of the company was heading into Zingarevich’s hands. “We’ve been so enthusiastic about Think and what we’ve tried to build up,” he told DN. “It’s very frustrating when capital and ownership interests destroy everything for us.”

The company was founded as Pivco back in 1990, which ultimately went bankrupt in 1998 even after gaining international recognition for its little electric cars. Ford Motor Co took over and invested millions of dollars not least to satisfy environmental requirements in California, but it pulled the plug in 2003 and since then, Think has had a succession of various owners and managers. Its latest bankruptcy filing occurred on June 22 and all Think employees lost their jobs.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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