THE FATE of a historic Dursley company that employs around 100 people still hangs in the balance as community leaders fight for its survival.

Lister Petter, which has resided in the town for almost 150 years and employed 5,000 people at its height, applied to go into administration on Friday after acquiring insurmountable debts.

Administrator Neil Money from CBA Insolvency Practitioners has taken over the running of the engine-manufacturing firm, with 29 members of staff let go last week.

The company had already made around 77 people redundant in previous months at the Dursley factory but this has seemingly not been enough and it now faces liquidation if a buyer is not found in the next few weeks.

The Gazette understands a potential buyer has expressed an interest and discussions with landowner Stroud District Council (SDC) are taking place.

Lister Petter was set to move to a new facility in Hardwicke in June, supported by money from SDC, but this has now fallen through.

The council is one of several creditors the company owes money too after not paying rent on the site for several months.

Its lease ran out on Monday, March 31 and SDC is now in talks with the administrator to extend its stay to help find a solution for the company.

A Lister Petter spokesman told the Gazette it had recently faced severe financial difficulties, with the banking crisis impacting on business dramatically.

He added the reduction of willingness by European banks to loan money had resulted in the company being unable to export to where Lister Petter sales were strong.

“This has forced Lister Petter to seek funding in its emerging markets and the USA where there is less risk aversion and a better understanding of the company’s business needs,” he said.

The firm said this change had mostly affected the Dursley factory and was advised to apply for administration.

“The purpose is to protect our customers, suppliers and employees through a managed transition with the administrator that will allow the UK site to trade out successfully,” he said.

Gloucestershire Labour Party is urging the county council to get behind attempts to save the business and Dursley’s representative, Cllr Steve Lydon, said doing nothing was not an option.

“Lister Petter is a major local employer and its closure would hit Dursley, Cam and the surrounding area extremely hard,” he said.

“We owe it to the Lister Petter workers to leave no stone unturned in trying to save their jobs.”

SDC leader, Cllr Geoff Wheeler, said they were in a “limbo period” while talks took place with the administrator and the union Unite.

“We're hopeful that the administrator can come up with a solution which allows what is left of this formerly great company to remain in Dursley over the next few months until a permanent solution is found.”

Stroud MP Neil Carmichael said he had also met with SDC, the Local Enterprise Partnership and the potential buyer.

“Discussions will continue, not least because of complications connected with the recent history of Lister Petter,” he said.

“I will continue to support all parties in trying to find a future for Lister Petter and I am determined to ensure that job opportunities, investors and new technology all thrive in our area.”