Debt-stricken childcare centre operator ABC Learning Centres Ltd has been placed in voluntary administration and the federal government says it will not be directly involved in running centres owned by the company, Australia’s largest childcare provider.

The ABC Learning Centres board has appointed Peter Walker and Greg Moloney of Ferrier Hodgson as voluntary administrators of ABC.

The company said the action was taken following a careful review of the company’s future by its directors.

ABC chairman David Ryan said: “The board and current management team are disappointed to be in this position despite the efforts of so many staff and the continued support of parents.

“The management team have worked tirelessly over the past few weeks to ensure that families across Australia and New Zealand continue to have access to quality childcare,” Mr Ryan said.

Subsequent to the appointment of administrators to ABC, the company’s banking syndicate appointed Chris Honey, Murray Smith and John Cronin of McGrathNicol as receivers of the companies set out in the attached schedule.

Trading in ABC’s securities will remain suspended.

Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner said the federal government will not be involved directly in running the centres owned by ABC Learning.

ABC Learning said yesterday it was in talks with stakeholders, including banks and the federal government to secure the future of its operations.

It said at the time all of its 1,200 childcare centres in Australia and New Zealand were continuing to operate as usual.

The government has said it has contingency plans ready should ABC be placed in receivership.

“I wouldn’t imagine we would be directly running them,” Mr Tanner told Fairfax Radio Network earlier today.

“Clearly one of the key things we have got to do is to make sure we minimise disruption to people with arrangements.

“We can’t allow a situation to emerge when there’s thousands of families around the country that depend on their childcare is suddenly taken away and no alternative.”