Permo-Drive staff (from left): Electrical technician Chris Webber, hydraulic technician Darren Bruce and chief engineer Chris Marshall.
Permo-Drive staff (from left): Electrical technician Chris Webber, hydraulic technician Darren Bruce and chief engineer Chris Marshall. Doug Eaton

D-day today for Permo-Drive at Ballina

TODAY is D-Day for Ballina-based business Permo-Drive, with shareholders expected to vote for the company to go into liquidation at a midday meeting.

The company, which has been developing a fuel conservation system for heavy vehicles such as garbage trucks, has announced it will go into voluntary receivership today unless a new source of cash can be found.

Managing director John Thompson said he and all the directors would like to find an investor, but no one had come forward with the $7.5 million needed to save the company.

"The meeting will go ahead as planned unless somebody comes up with some firm proposition that will allow the board to recommend at the meeting that going into administration be temporarily deferred," Mr Thompson said.

"There are still some discussions going on, but I don't want to give anyone any false hope. The probability of success at this late stage is low."

The company's demise will be felt sharply across the Northern Rivers, where as many at 1900 individual investors have contributed a total of $7 million to the Permo-Drive dream. Many of them were 'mum and dad' investors.

Mr Thompson said the loss of the company was a tragedy as the benefits of the fuel-saving technology would not be felt by motorists. Also, five staff members and three contractors will lose their jobs. This number has been whittled down gradually from 20 staff in an attempt to save money.

"At this time of high fuel costs and climate change concerns, this seems to be a tragedy for the shareholders, the nation and, for that matter, globally, that this technology, which can save so much fuel for commercial vehicles, will be lost for the sake of a relatively small amount of money," he said.

"We need the $7.5 million to complete the last stage of production. Although we have the prototype running, we can't take orders for something that we can't yet supply and install in volume.

"I've lost count of how many investors we have talked to in the last three months, and with increasing intensity over the last few weeks. We've talked to hundreds of possible rescuers and considered every possible way of rescue. But all they want to do, so far, is talk - no one has put anything solid on the table."

Mr Thompson said the board was liquidating the company now as there wasn't much money left in the till.

He said whatever money remained would be used to pay off loans to a financial institution which had backed the technology from early on.

"By the time they get what is left, it is most unlikely there will be anything left to distribute to the shareholders," he said.


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