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Offshore firm Gardline bought by Dutch company Boskalis

PUBLISHED: 14:51 23 August 2017 | UPDATED: 14:51 23 August 2017

Gardline chairman Gregory Darling, pictured in 2014. Picture: Archant.

Gardline chairman Gregory Darling, pictured in 2014. Picture: Archant.

Archant Norfolk © 2014

Offshore services group Gardline has been snapped up by a Dutch company in a multi-million pound deal, ending nearly 50 years as a family business.

Offshore services group Gardline has been snapped up by a Dutch company in a multi-million pound deal, ending nearly 50 years as a family business.

Dredging and marine experts Boskalis has paid around £40m, including taking on company debt, for the surveying contractor.

Announcing the deal, the Dutch firm said it had been seeking to build a position in offshore surveying and that it saw “significant synergies” between the two companies.

Gardline currently employs around 750 employees, including a pool of 100 surveyors, and as well as its principal offices in Great Yarmouth has activities in the USA, Brazil and Singapore.

“With the acquisition of Gardline, Boskalis strengthens its existing survey activities and becomes a specialist provider of subsea geotechnical surveys with an exposure to the renewables market and the early cyclical oil and gas market,” said Boskalis in a statement. “Based on the challenging near-term outlook, Boskalis does not expect the transaction to be EBIT [earnings before interest and tax] accretive within the next few years. This transaction, however, positions Boskalis well for when end-markets recover.”

Gardline, a member of the EDP/EADT Top 100 list of Norfolk and Suffolk’s biggest companies by turnover, was founded in 1969.

It operates 15 survey-related vessels and 25 smaller craft.

Its latest filed accounts at Companies House show that turnover fell to £114.872m in the year to April 30, 2016, from £210.592m the year before. It made a pre-tax loss of £4.552m, down from 2015’s loss of £7.241m.

It put the drop down to the difficult conditions in the oil and gas industry, caused by subdued oil prices, and said it was controlling costs and had made structural changes. Its most recent accounts show it employed an average of 1,221 employees, down from 1,729 in the year to the end of April 2015.

Earlier this month Gardline won £6m of contracts from ScottishPower Renewables for pre-construction surveys across the East Anglia One wind farm site and a project in Massachusetts in the US.

Simon Gray, chief executive of the East of England Energy Group, said it was “sad to have lost the local ownership of a major employer”, but hoped that the Boskalis would appreciate Gardline’s low cost base in the East, and invest in the future of the business.

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