Moulinex files for protection from bankruptcy

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Moulinex, the household appliance maker, filed for bankruptcy protection yesterday after the collapse of talks to resolve its funding crisis.

The French group, famous for products like kitchen blenders and Krups coffee machines, has been making losses since 1999. Its debts stand at about £500m. Moulinex was taken over last year by Elfi, an Italian group controlled by the Nocivelli brothers, and merged with the Brandt business, another maker of appliances.

Moulinex's chief executive, Patrick Puy, blamed the failure of the company on the unwillingness of the Nocivellis to match the financing being offered by the company's banks. Moulinex needs 230m euros (£140m) altogether over the next three years.

Mr Puy said: "The bank's contribution was ready. It required the shareholder [Elfi] to play its role. I am sorry to say that it did not want to fulfil its obligations. This is a pity."

Moulinex is seeking protection from its creditors and will continue operations as a French court decides how the firm should be administered.

Mr Puy said: "I could not imagine that the main shareholder, which had put most of its assets in this operation, would hesitate to go further at the critical moment." He said that until two weeks ago he had thought all parties backed the financing plan, but dismissed the possibility that Moulinex might end up in liquidation and suggested that it would now attract a takeover bid.

Moulinex lost 130m euros in 2000 and expects losses of a similar size this year. The company had a restructuring plan in place, which involved cutting 4,000 jobs, and aimed at breaking even by 2003.

The group was hit by the emerging market crises in Russia, Asia and Latin America in recent years, and pricing pressure in the competitive household appliances market. Rivals such as Sweden's Electrolux and Whirlpool of the US have reported falls in profits this year.