Unitech buys out Francis after distributor insolvency

Francis installation crop
Francis Catering Equipment has now been bought from administration by Unitech.

Unitech Industries has stepped in to buy the business, assets and intellectual property rights of Francis Catering Equipment, after the Midlands-based distributor was placed into voluntary insolvency, along with its associate company, Stockport-headquartered Design Catering Equipment. Francis had previously purchased its fellow dealer after this went into administration in 2014.

Steven Stokes and Raj Mittal from FRP Advisory were appointed joint administrators for the case on 4 September. The insolvency practitioners have managed to craft a deal with Unitech which secures all 40 jobs at the firm, as well as ongoing trading.

Unitech Industries is a large and diversified manufacturing group based in the West Midlands, which also owns Livingston-based ScoMac Catering Equipment. The firm stated that it took this action at very short notice in order to preserve the businesses.

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The new business will trade under the name of Francis Commercial Kitchen Services and continue specialising in the design and installation of commercial kitchens for clients from the group’s main office in Kingswinford, the West Midlands, and a satellite warehouse in Stockport, Greater Manchester.

Francis Catering has over 40 years of trading, serving clients with catering equipment and industrial kitchen installations, having expanded in response to growth in the market.

As part of the group’s expansion, the securing of new, larger contracts involved upfront capital investment, which had put unsustainable pressure on cash flow and working capital. After being unable to secure additional new funding, the group was left with no viable alternative to ensure ongoing trading, other than to seek a sale of its businesses and assets via administration.

Steven Stokes, joint administrator and partner at FRP Advisory, said: “This is a positive result for a long-established business, securing the jobs of a skilled workforce in the West Midlands and Stockport. Unitech Industries provides the ideal support and depth of management experience to provide Francis with the platform to prosper in the future. We wish the Francis business and their staff every success under their new ownership.”

Nick Imlah, group MD at Unitech Industries, issued the following statement: “We are glad to have been able to secure the future employment of such a large number of people. I look forward to working with the teams at Kingswinford and Stockport to re-build the brand and reputation of Francis; a successful business for 40 years.”

Unitech hopes to be able to support Francis in its future dealings with its new customer base.

However, Catering Insight understands that Francis Commercial Kitchen Services will not be taking on Francis Catering Equipment’s existing debts.

Companies House records show that the name Francis Commercial Kitchen Services was registered on 30 August, using a dormant company which was first incorporated by the Unitech Group as Unitech Herbert Systems on 1 August 2016. It then changed its name to Food Service Eng’ UK on 24 February this year, before the current conversion.

Francis Catering Equipment’s latest available accounts from Companies House also show that for the 2015 calendar year the distributor turned over more than £6.5m with a gross profit of over £1.5m. In an 18 month accounting period prior to that, ending 31 December 2014, turnover was recorded as £10.3m with a gross profit of nearly £2.3m.

Tags : administrationbuyoutdesign catering equipmentFrancis Cateringinsolvencyunitech
Clare Nicholls

The author Clare Nicholls


  1. “However, Catering Insight understands that Francis Commercial Kitchen Services will not be taking on Francis Catering Equipment’s existing debts”

    Great for the staff, however the way that companies are allowed to restart without paying off the debt to suppliers who have been supportive of the company is outrageous. Unitech seems to have a habit of this and I don’t think that it is good for the long term of the industry.

    1. “However, Catering Insight understands that Francis Commercial Kitchen Services will not be taking on Francis Catering Equipment’s existing debts”

      Agreed. It is so difficult for suppliers to have the confidence to provide workable credit accounts to distributors when this happens. Losses like this are not easily absorbed especially in the current climate.

      1. Agree 100%, what will happen now is that good dealers will be squeezed harder by suppliers putting them under greater strain during an already difficult trading period.

  2. I do agree that it is good that the staff have been able to keep their jobs, the majority will have had no knowledge or part in the dubious actions of the last few weeks.
    That said I would go further than the previous contributor and say it is DEFINITELY not a good thing for the industry, trading has been tough for us all since June 23rd last year and to knowingly run up debts that won’t be paid with suppliers who have supported you by tolerating repeated late (no, very late) payments and broken promises about payment dates is frankly sickening.
    Unfortunately one of the inevitable consequences of this will be that good, honest dealers are squeezed harder by manufacturers and distributors for payment increasing the financial pressure they are under. Pressure will increase further if some of the larger national accounts decide to re-evaluate the dealers they are relying on and spread their risk about a bit more.
    There will be a lot of nervous dealers out there wondering how this might eventually effect them and not many will be thanking the Francis management team.

  3. If you feel the directors of Francis Catering behaved dishonestly e.g. used lines of credit in the full knowledge they would not be able to repay the debt, you can complain to both the insolvency practitioner (named in the article), and to the Insolvency Service – links to both relevant pages below;
    Both can apply to have directors disqualified (even in the process of liquidation) if they feel their conduct has been ‘unfit’;

    Although this action itself won’t recover your company money, it might stop dishonest practices being repeated.

    Also, don’t forget to ask FRP Advisory for details on submitting your claims against the liquidated assets for service rendered as soon as possible.

  4. Apart from Linda Lewis the other comments are from anonymous people, what’s the problem guys? Francis took me for 4 grand, I know of others that they took for a lot more, Unitech has a habit of buying out good companies run in to the ground by w**kers and then keeping the same w**kers on to run them, Scomac & Valera to name a couple. My number is 07813120011 if anybody wants to discuss my post.

  5. Yet another case of someone greasing their own palms and sod the rest. At least they haven’t called themselves Francis Unitech Commercial Kitchen Services (F.U.C.K.S)!!

  6. Absolutely agree with Linda, when you look at all the facts the dates clearly show the whole administration was well planned and set up and clearly suppliers who have supported Francis have all been stitched up.

  7. Iain, I say it as I see it, did Scobie pay all its creditors when it went? I know for a fact Valera didn’t as I caught a cold when that went only to be resurrected seconds later by Santa Unitech, Iain, I know how business works so please don’t play the offended or the victim, Ive been under before but I never kept sending orders out and accepting goods right up to the last day I had the receivers in, which is what Francis did. When I went, everyone pass paid, I had to do that I could start again, I didn’t have Santa Unitech to make it all go away, like I said in my previous post, my numbers there if anyone wants to discuss further.

  8. Hi Iain, further to our tecom, my apogies if you were offended, my comments were a broad brush at what I perceive to be a rather under handed tact.

    All the best


  9. Let’s hope the manufacturers who have been turned over, tucked up whatever you call it do not deal with the new made up Francis Something LTD! Actually that no manufacturer dare deal with them.

  10. Hi Nick,

    I’ve seen your comment above, whilst listening to jingle bells as we beaver away in Santa’s workshop.
    Just to let you know that us 470 elves are really grateful to Santa.

    Harry Imlah

  11. This purchase out of administration without paying the debts may not be “good for the industry” but there is lots far worse going on e.g. the race to the quality bottom supported and promoted by certain big “box-shifters”

  12. Great comment Harry, poor taste but great comment, like my grandad said when he was a P.O.W, what goes around comes around.

    All the best

  13. They have placed a large order from us as recent as 17.08.17 which presumably they had absolutely no intention of paying. Utterly Disgraceful.

  14. Francis Catering are full of nothing but empty promises, to suppliers and STAFF! I’ve never heard directors chat so much bull with the intent of keeping employees hanging on with the hope of a career and promotion. 8 members of staff have left within a 24 month period due to lack encouragement, moral and communication between the management and staff. The best thing that can be done for this company is to start all over again with less sour minded people and such useless managers. Where petty behaviour takes place every day with such a poor atmosphere of ‘us’ and ‘them’.

  15. C.M.W. Stainless Steel And Alloy Products Limited
    Company Registration No.: 02371582 Incorporation Date: 13 Apr 1989
    Stallings Lane Kingswinford DY6 7JP

    Active – Proposal to Strike off (when checked on 1 Aug 2017)

    This company included a number of the same Directors. I wonder what the current status is ?

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