Failed container haulier Deben Transport owed unsecured creditors close to £2.4m when it was placed into administration on 13 April, as well as more than £1.4m to HMRC.

According to a report on the administration of the business by Ensors the prognosis for creditors is poor with a lack of saleable assets in the business meaning there is “unlikely to be a distribution of any kind to preferential or unsecured creditors”.

That means the company’s 224 staff, who are considering launching a group legal action against the company to win more compensation, are unlikely to receive the almost £200,000 owed to them in wages and holiday pay.

The report itself details the events leading up to the container haulier’s high-profile collapse, with Deben’s rescue of Elite Transport Services from an administration of its own in 2013 identified as the root cause of its troubles.

The report describes the takeover – done in a bid to give Deben a national network - as having having  had an immediate “adverse impact on the profitability” of the business.

Deben’s financial performance deteriorated after the purchase and it made a loss of £463,000 in the year ended 31 December  2013, followed by a loss of £923,000 a year later, according to Ensors.

According to the report, the company’s loss on the first six months of 2014 was particular acute at £762,000.

Its management accounts to 28 February 2015 also show a further £182,485 loss despite cost-cutting measures undertaken at the firm.

Deben made use of an invoice discounting facility and latterly a factoring agreement with HSBC Invoice Finance, and at the point of administration the company’s sales ledger stood at around £3m.

HSBC Invoice Finance, which had exposure to the tune of £2.1m at this point, has continued to collect debts throughout the process but due to bad and doubtful debts “anticipate achieving a break-even position at best, with no surplus expected”, Ensors said.

This and the fact it owned very few assets, including its vehciles (see below), means creditors are unlikely to get any of their money back.

Too little, too late – the tale of Deben’s collapse

Despite a new £480,000 cash-for-shares investment in the operator via J Norf in December of last year, which saw Rachel McCall take charge, and cost cutting plans being drawn up the company was undone when it received a demand for payment of £435,000 due in March 2015 from HMRC.

Just prior to this, Ensors said it had been instructed to carry out a review of the company’s liability to HMRC and its medium term prospects with a view to proposing a Time to Pay arrangement with the taxman.

Ensors said the company was already operating an existing arrangement with HMRC, and realised failure to pay this bill would result in a total liability of £825,000 (including existing arrears).

The administrator’s report goes on to state that it became apparent by March of this year that even if it won more time to pay its bill to HMRC the immediate cash requirement of the struggling business were now in the region of £1m.

Deben’s new investors were not in position to inject further capital into the business, and it had little in the way of assets as the majority of the 147 HGV tractor units and 351 trailers were on hire purchase or leased.

The lack of funding also meant that trying to trade some of the business while buyers were sought was not an option.

The company’s 224 staff have now been made redundant and Deben is heading into creditors’ voluntary liquidation.