Rival bid for Eddie Stobart is yet to get out of second gear

Eddie Stobart truck on M25
Eddie Stobart is buckling under a £200m debt mountain Credit:  Andrew Crowley

A rival bidder for Eddie Stobart claims shareholder backing for £70m rescue, but the struggling haulier needs rescuing fast

No one likes a tyre kicker. All that time-wasting on the driveway when you could be showing off your prized motor to a serious buyer.

Yet, here is Andrew Tinkler, still looking under the bonnet and admiring the alloys at Eddie Stobart more than two months after showing up claiming to be ready to rescue the troubled haulier.

Tinkler, who was chief executive for a decade until 2014, has put more flesh on the bones in recent days, with a proposal to pump £70m into the business.

The entrepreneur claims he is “ready to move quickly”, but he first pitched up in the middle of September, so it’s a good job he’s not moving more leisurely given that Eddie Stobart is on course to run out of cash before Christmas. 

Tinkler, who ran the logistics fleet as part of former parent Stobart Group, has made two bold claims. The first is that he has backers lined up to provide the emergency financing, though he said the same 10 days ago so it’s not clear what has changed. If they exist and are serious, then what’s stopping him from naming them?

Tinkler’s second assertion is that the “vast majority” of Eddie Stobart shareholders that he has met with are ready to vote down an alternative proposal from Isle of Man outfit and third largest shareholder Dbay Advisors. 

That sounds more plausible for the simple reason that Dbay’s offer is a rotten one.

The secretive hedge fund has offered to inject £55m of new money, but its funding would be in the form of a high interest Wonga-style loan with an eye-watering 25pc interest rate, the sort that has a habit of leaving the borrower requiring a roadside rescue. 

It also wants 51pc of the equity, handing it effective control but leaving existing shareholders, many of them ordinary retail investors, nursing big losses. 

What’s more, Dbay has made a small fortune from owning Eddie Stobart before, alongside Stobart Group. The pair offloaded more than two thirds of their shares when it returned to the stock market in 2017 at 160p a share, making a combined £300m return. 

The fund’s latest move is nothing more than an attempt to protect its remaining interest and regain control on the cheap. That’s not to say either proposals guarantee survival for a company mired in accounting problems and buckling under a £200m debt mountain.

At this stage, any bid may be little more than a stay of execution. Still, long-suffering shareholders will vote on Dbay’s offer next week. Tinkler needs to get his rear end into gear and put up or shut up.