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Banks issue ultimatum to wind turbine giant

The world’s biggest maker of wind turbines is considering putting itself up for sale as concerns mount over its giant debt pile. Vestas is studying the drastic move after entering debt restructuring talks with its lenders.

The banks have demanded that the Danish company prepares a comprehensive financial restructuring plan after it was forced to bolster its cash position by drawing down a €300m (£242m) bank facility.

The company, which has more than 20,000 employees worldwide, has been one of the biggest casualties of the global slowdown in the renewable energy industry. Two weeks ago, it cancelled plans to build a giant factory at Sheerness, Kent, dealing a blow to the government’s plans to create a domestic renewables industry.

Vestas was founded in 1898 by a blacksmith in the small town of Lem, on the west coast of Denmark. In 2009 it provoked uproar in Britain with the closure of an Isle of Wight factory, making 400 redundant.

The group has nearly €6 billion of annual sales but has racked up debts of more than €2 billion. Its shares have shed more than 95% of their value since the 2008 peak.

In January Vestas announced 2,300 job cuts after posting its second profit warning in just a few months and falling €60m into the red. Its market value has shrunk to £700m.

The company’s woes reflect a significant shift in the wind industry since the recession took hold. The sector has been battered by a perfect storm of government belt-tightening, lack of project financing and rising costs.

Lenders to Vestas, including Royal Bank of Scotland and HSBC, have appointed Ernst & Young to advise on negotiations with the company.

Vestas has hired PWC to help draw up a plan to repair its creaking balance sheet.

The options include putting the company on the block. It could be an attractive target for industrial giants with a growing interest in renewables technology, such as General Electric and Siemens. There have been rumours that Chinese rivals are circling.

Alternatively, Vestas may decide to sell some of its assets. The company declined to comment.