Belfast Telegraph

Lenders take control of waste firm as debt interest wipes out profits

By Holly Williams

One of Britain's largest household waste collectors is about to be seized by its lenders because of crippling debts.

Biffa, which employs around 6,000 bin workers and has household collection contracts across the UK, including Northern Ireland, is handing control of the business to creditors led by banking giant HSBC after struggling to repay debts, according to The Sunday Times newspaper.

Biffa is understood to have been saddled with more than £1bn of loans since 2008 when it was taken private by three investment firms: Montagu, Global Infrastructure Partners and the private equity arm of Halifax Bank of Scotland.

The £1.7bn takeover was financed with £1.1bn of loans from around 70 banks and financial institutions. But its profits have been wiped out by large interest payments on the debt.

Biffa was founded more than 100 years ago and is the UK's second-largest waste collector. Based in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, it collects around four million tonnes of waste a year from around 75,000 commercial customers and one million homes.

The group was spun off from Severn Trent in 2006, although it started as a haulage firm collecting waste from coal-fired power stations in the London area.

A Biffa spokesman said: "The company is undertaking a well-managed, planned restructuring process, working with its lenders to reduce the debt."