Struggling Canute Group has completed a pre-pack sale, in a move that saves 800 jobs at the business but will likely leave some creditors of the firm out of pocket.

The company has been sold to Almtone, a holding company registered in September 2017, for an undisclosed sum. Almtone shares a common director with Canute Group in the form of Glenn Marshall.

The other listed director, and sole shareholder of Almtone, is Michael Ventham. The new business will continue to trade as Canute Group.

The company, whose accounts are listed as overdue at Companies House, had a turnover of £106m in the year ended 31 July 2016. It made a pre-tax loss of £442,000 in this year.

Last month Canute played down the significance of eight O-licence applications, currently in progress with the Office of the Traffic Commissioner, made for Almtone.

The O-licences give Canute’s Gamston depot as its address, and name Canute director Marshall as transport manager.

In a letter to staff sent last month, seen by MT, the company said its previous funder had obliged Canute to apply for “a number of changes to be made to our O-licences and structures.

“This has now come out into the public domain and nobody should be alarmed about this process”.

Canute Group added that a decision to switch banks earlier this year had caused problems, including the late payment of staff, but intimated the situation had been resolved.

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In a statement issued today, Canute Group, said: “After what has been a particularly difficult period for the Canute Group we are delighted to announce that the assets and trading divisions of Canute have been sold as a going concern to Almtone.

“Our recent challenges have been well publicised and we are enormously grateful for your patience and support shown by our loyal customers, we now look forward to correcting our course to one of stability and positive growth based on consistent and reliable services for all of our customers."

A separate email sent by the firm to sub-contractors and seen by MT confirmed: "All assets, contracts and the company names of The Canute Group have been sold to Almtone Ltd

"The staff at Canute have been transferred to Almtone (TUPE). Icknield are the administrators of the old Canute Group and will be dealing with all outstanding liabilities."

It comes after the County Court Judgements (CCJ) against Canute Group reached 14 and more than £90,000 unpaid to creditors ahead of the pre-pack, according to Companies House.

However, Icknield have confirmed (as of 16 May) that they are not the administrators of the old Canute Group and FRP Advisory have been appointed instead. A spokesman for Icknield said: "We continue, as we have been doing previously, to advise Canute on its financial difficulties."

Canute Group has said it will not be commenting further in the short-term.

Creditors' anger

Andy Davies, MD of A Davies Transport, which is owed £3,500 by Canute, said: “They may have saved 800 jobs, but how many companies will be out of pocket – or maybe worse – because of this? I am still receiving emails from them now advertising work from the same company name, same people, same everything.

“We may as well all run our businesses this way – build up debt, not pay, and start again!”

MT has been contacted by several other creditors of Canute Group, who asked not to be named.

One said: "We are only owed about £1,200 but it’s the principal that they are still emailing offering work to hauliers who may not know they haven’t paid the rest of us." He added that a friend was owed around £4,000.

“How the hell can you buy a 100m turnover company including assets for £1, when the company buying the defunct company has the same owner and a £1 share?” he said.

Another sub-contractor said that they had been owed more than £30,000 at one point, and were well overdue on payment terms a few months ago.

"We engaged [professional] services to recover monies and we were getting dribs and drabs to reduce the debt to around £15,000 plus costs."

The firm has subsequently raised a CCJ.