Administrators still baffled over Time ownership

Two weeks after the collapse of Granville Technology Group, the administrators still haven't establish who owned the company, and the DTI admits it can't help either

Two weeks after they were called in, the administrators of Granville Technology Group (GTG) and its Tiny and Time computer brands have been unable to establish who owned the company.

And, despite calls from MPs for an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the collapse, the Department of Trade and Industry has admitted that it is powerless to act while the company remains in administration.

The ownership question been an issue since before the company went into administration two weeks ago. Trade union sources warned on 26 July that there was "concern" over the ownership of the company and on Wednesday a spokesman for the administrators, Grant Thornton, told ZDNet UK that "the administrators are still looking at the ownership question".

Finding who really owns GTG's assets, especially the Time, Tiny and Computer Shop brands, is crucial for Grant Thornton. The administrators must establish this before it can work out how to use the assets or dispose of them as part of the administration process.

The administrators are dealing with a very complex situation. For example, a commercial Web site called P400 is currently operating from an address close to GTG's Burnley offices, selling IT components from companies like HP, Brother, Intel and others, as well as consumer products such as iPods. When ZDNet UK called P400's support line, it was answered by Tiny Computers.

A spokesman for Grant Thornton confirmed on Wednesday that P400 is one of the companies where the administrators are "still looking into the ownership question".

Meanwhile, the spokesman also confirmed to ZDNet that "unsecured creditors are unlikely to receive any money from the administration".

The financial picture for all creditors remains bleak. When a company goes out of business, there are different ways in which creditors can try and recoup some of their losses, but this normally only applies to companies that have gone bankrupt. A spokeswoman for the DTI confirmed to ZDNet UK that, while the company was in administration, everything "was in the hands of the administrators".

Normally, the administrators will try to keep the company going in the hope of selling it off as a going concern or a collection of workable component. As part of that process they will try, on behalf of the shareholders, to recoup some of those losses.

Grant Thornton's ongoing failure to establish the ownership of GTG's various assets appears to leave both the administrators and the creditors in a Catch 22 situation.

Faced with this confusion, several MPs have called for a government inquiry into GTG's collapse.

But according to the DTI, the government will not normally investigate any company while it is in administration.