There was uncertainty yesterday for up to 1,100 jobs at Pickfords, the UK's oldest removals firm, after its owner warned the business faced going into administration unless a buyer could be found.
US removals giant Sirva said it was looking to sell all or part of the loss-making business to help raise money to pay staff and creditors.
The company, which dates back to 1695, is forecast to lose around £1.5 million this year, and relied on a £350,000 cash injection last month to pay staff, Sirva said. Pickfords has "significant" short term cash obligations, it added.
Based in Enfield, Middlesex, Pickfords employs around 1,100 people across the UK and Ireland. The business is registered in the UK as Sirva UK, and has been struggling amid the housing market slowdown.
Pickfords has warehouse storage operations in the West Midlands.
Sirva itself filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US last week after suffering during the US's property crisis.
In a document filed to US regulators, the company said: "If a solution is not found to the short term funding requirement the directors of Sirva UK must consider filing for an appropriate insolvency procedure."
Sirva said it was in discussion with an unnamed company over the sale of the group's assets in return for "taking on certain liabilities".
If this deal failed and no other cash injection could be found, "it may be necessary for there to be a sale of Sirva UK to be completed in an insolvency procedure, for example administration," the US company added.
Sirva, which bought Pickfords in 2002, also warned that if no buyer at all could be found, the business would be wound up.
Pickfords finance director Brad McCarthy said he was "very confident" about the prospects for the business.
He said: "There is no issue of short term cash. We have a number of alternatives.
"I can say with a reasonable level of confidence we are able to find those models."
Mr McCarthy said the business made a loss of about £1 million last year.
He added: "We are experiencing a difficult first half of the year due to the housing market, so we are not expecting to improve from 2007."
The housing market has slowed since the credit crunch last August tightened lending criteria for borrowers.
The number of mortgages approved for people moving home fell to a three-year low at the end of last year.
Sirva UK has a deficit in its defined benefit pension scheme of about £10 million and has agreed with pension trustees to pay £1.6 million per year into the scheme over 10 years.
The first reference to the Pickfords business was in 1695 with family members working in haulage. It started using steam traction engines to haul goods in 1840, before the business developed after the invention of the motor car.
In a statement, Pickfords said it was "business as usual" while negotiations about its future went on.
It said: "The company is continuing to serve its customers without interruption, and its agreements with employees and all other business partners remain intact.
"It is important to understand that Sirva is still in the process of reviewing its options for the UK business and no course of action has been decided upon.
"If and when the company decides to move forward with a sale, a public announcement will be made."