HomeBussinessLiquidator appointed to remote home heating business

Liquidator appointed to remote home heating business

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More than 10,000 households using heating systems operated by remote control could be left without heating if a buyer is not found to take over the controller system, the High Court heard.

Hub Controls Ltd, which installed the “Hub Controller” system in 12,000 homes, is insolvent and unable to pay its debts, the court heard. Another home heating controls firm, Climote, was wound up last December.

On Tuesday, following an application from Sally O’Neill BL, for the company, Mr Justice Mark Sanfey appointed a provisional liquidator so that efforts can be made to find a buyer for the Hub subscription service and the protection of 10,000 users. Some 4,000 users pay for a subscription service and 6,000 are on the basic non-subscription service.

In the event of the company ceasing operations, it says these services would “immediately stop” and up to 10,000 homes left without heating. Householders would have to call in an electrician to bypass the system and install a new device before the heating system could be used again, Hub Controls says.

Mr Justice Sanfey appointed Declan De Lacy of Azets Ireland as provisional liquidator with liberty to apply for additional powers if necessary before the case returns next month.

Oliver Hynes, who along with Barry Gavin, is one of the two directors of the firm, said in an affidavit that, at a meeting on April 22, the board, in the interest of creditors, resolved to recommend that the company be wound up. It currently employs six staff and is based in Tallaght, Dublin.

In the petition, the company says that, since 2019, it was able to offer the Hub Controller free to consumers because the product qualified for energy credits under the “energy efficiency obligation scheme” operated by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).

It also developed an expertise in processing similar energy credits for electric vehicle charging companies.

Those energy credits in Ireland generated some €5 million in revenue between 2019 and 2023. The company said it was anticipated they would continue until 2030, but in 2022 they were dropped under a new SEAI policy.

In December 2022, the company wrote to all users inviting them to sign up for a subscription service to continue using its full facilities while those who didn’t could continue to use the basic service.

A total of 4,000 signed up, but in order to break even, the company needed 5,750 subscribers.

Also in 2022, the electric vehicle credits were discontinued.

Initiatives to rescue the business were taken including seeking to grow the number of paying subscribers, seeking a partnership with the Climote firm, restructuring loans and cost reductions.

It was also proposed to raise fresh equity and to facilitate a fundraise in the US, Hub Controls Global Inc was set up in Delaware.

However, by early 2024, despite the implementation of cost reductions and loan restructuring, it failed to add any customers and, in fact, lost a number. The deal with Climote did not materialise and Climote itself went into liquidation last December.

The company also realised that a €606,000 debt it says owed to it by Bord Gáis Energy would not be realised in the short term given the debt was being contested and that lawyers had said it would cost €100,000-plus to bring a case to recover it.

It was also accepted there was no appetite from US investors to fund the Irish business.

However, it said that should a provisional liquidator be appointed, Hub Controls Global Inc has agreed to continue the service to Irish customers for 28 days (until May 24) to facilitate the sale of the subscription service and to protect the overall 10,000 users. It is also hoped some of the six employees could be retained.

As well as directing the advertising of the appointment of the provisional liquidator, the judge said Revenue, which is the largest creditor and owed some €927,000 in a warehoused tax liability, is also to be put on notice.

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