A-Tec under fire by works council for ‘extreme expansion’

Staff representatives have criticised the “extreme expansion policy” of struggling industrial firm A-Tec.The company faces bankruptcy, and reports have it that A-Tec planned to get rid of its subsidiary Austrian Energy & Environment (AE&E) to avoid a collapse.A-Tec puts the dire state of the firm down to cost overruns on a project by AE&E in Australia.AE&E employees representatives, however, vehemently denied these claims today (Weds).A spokesman for the company’s works council said A-Tec should have reacted to the developments of the Australian activity much quicker. He added: “The real problems lie much deeper.”The works council representative also stressed that difficulties of such range must not bring a company as big as A-Tec – which has almost 12,000 employees – into trouble. A-Tec needs between 15 and 20 million Euros over the next few days to avoid insolvency. Business news columnists expressed surprise at the comparable small amount needed by the company, considering its 2009 turnover of three billion Euros.AE&E works council officials said A-Tec’s “extreme expansion policy” was to blame for the situation the company and its subsidiary are now in. They appealed to potential investors to present concepts revealing their plans for AE&E in a possible takeover.”Such information would be vital considering that 377 jobs in Vienna and Graz seem to be at risk,” a staff spokesman said. He explained: “The plant construction sector left the worst of the economic crisis behind it only recently because of comparably long duration of projects.”He claimed several orders “lying on the table ready to be signed” were under threat due to the recent developments.South Korean investment companies and a group of Austrian industrialists are interested in acquiring AE&E, according to reports in Austrian media.A possible bankruptcy of A-Tec – which took over several ailing firms before successfully restructuring their finances – would be the third-biggest in the history of Austria after the collapse of supermarket chain Konsum and building company Maculan.Many analysts and commentators reacted with scorn at the news from last month that A-Tec had only decided to open bankruptcy proceedings due to the attitude of its chief Mirko Kovats.The businessman, who is regarded as a “self-styled turbo capitalist”, said in an interview in July “no one” would be interested in locating an industrial facility in Austria because of its tax system and bloated bureaucracy.Kovats told the Kurier newspaper: “India wants to grow, people are working very hard there. Meanwhile, Austrian students go on strike. I won’t decide the outcome – people who buy cheap products will.”The entrepreneur, who was born in Austria to a family of Hungarian immigrants, is allegedly willing to hand over 25.1 per cent of the 66.6 per cent of shares he holds in A-Tec to rescue the company from ruin.Asked how he liked Austrian director Erwin Wagenhofer’s globalism-critical movie “Let’s Make Money” from 2008 in which he is portrayed as cold and greedy, Kovats said: “I fell asleep at some stage because it (the film) is full of wrong claims.”