Who can save the Maisons Phénix, this famous brand of individual houses in steel and concrete which has enabled many French people to access property? Since May 24, 2022, the construction and renovation company Geoxia (owner of this brand as well as Maison Familiale, Maison Castor, Phénix Évolution and Évolutiv’Habitat) has been in receivership proceedings. It has been controlled since 2009 by the investment fund LBO France.
Different options on the table
The Commercial Court of Nanterre (Hauts-de-Seine) opened an observation period expiring on November 24, 2022. Takeover offers could be filed until Friday June 10, 2022. According to our information, two global offers, as well as three partial takeover offers, not including the three factories of the group which are the specificity of Maison Phénix compared to its competitors – which generally call on subcontractors to carry out the work – but impose on it large fixed costs. Already in 2017, Geoxia had to sell three regional brands to Omnes Capital.
Managers, employees and unions were not convinced by these new offers. They therefore sent their own proposal, with the support of the judicial administrators. Objective, to complete the 1,600 construction sites in progress which had to be suspended or slowed down, placing many families – in particular first-time buyers – in difficulty, and saving the jobs of the 1,150 employees. Hoping to return to profitability in two years.
70 million euros requested from the State
The problem is that they don’t have investors. They are therefore appealing for state aid, via a letter sent on June 13 to Emmanuel Macron and his Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire, hoping to release 70 million euros.
“This funding could take the form of an FDES loan or transition fund, states their letter, that West France was able to consult. For approximately 35 million euros, it is a question of financing the need for working capital and it can be reimbursed as soon as a short-term financing solution can be put in place. The balance which corresponds to the financing of losses linked to works in progress may be reimbursed ultimately over 10 years as a subordinated loan”.
Managers and employees present the company as “totally profitable in recent years”. However, it has not been profitable since 2018 and its turnover has continued to collapse, falling from 700 million euros in 2009 when it was taken over by LBO France to 252 million euros in 2021. During the health crisis, she had not been able to benefit from a loan guaranteed by the State because she was unbanked, no bank agreeing to finance her.
Alerted, the State had already intervened for a year, via the Interministerial Committee for Industrial Restructuring (Ciri) which helped it find a buyer. 30 million euros in charge reductions, in particular with Urssaf, have been released to relieve its cash flow. The Ministry of Economy and Finance continues to monitor the file to “find an exit from above”. And is particularly vigilant about the fate reserved for customers, theoretically all covered by insurance: “We are waiting for their insurers to offer a solution for everyone”. On June 28, the commercial court will rule on a takeover or judicial liquidation.