Potential buyers found for SLP

A number of potential buyers have been found for troubled engineering firm SLP - but administrators have confirmed 100 redundancies this month with a warning of more to follow.

A number of potential buyers have been found for troubled engineering firm SLP - but administrators have confirmed 100 redundancies this month with a warning of more to follow.

Lowestoft-based SLP was forced to call in administrators last November after it was the subject of a multi-million dollar legal claim, leaving 800 workers facing an uncertain future.

But lead administrator Stephen Oldfield, of PricewaterhouseCoopers, yesterday confirmed he had been approached by several “serious” bidders interested in buying the whole business as a going concern.

While the number and identity of the interested parties has not been made public, Mr Oldfield said they included overseas companies.

Other bidders have also expressed interest in buying part of the business which includes engineering and energy divisions, he added.

But despite the renewed hope for the future of the business Mr Oldfield said about 100 workers would be made redundant this month and further job cuts were inevitable.

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Work on existing contracts is expected to last until the summer, but further orders have dried up because of uncertainty in light of the legal dispute, which had hung over SLP for more than a year.

Mr Oldfield said his priority now was to secure a buyer as soon as possible so a new owner or owners can attract new work to secure the future of the business and its staff.

He said: “We have active parties interested in acquiring the whole of the SLP business, which includes the engineering business and the energy business.

“We also have interested parties interested in just the energy part of the business and parties just interested in the property.

“My focus is to try and achieve a sale of the business as a going concern.”

He added: “I am very keen to sell the business as soon as I can to give the new buyer as much opportunity as possible to refuel and replenish the order book.”

He said about 60 people had already been made redundant, with 45 set to follow by the end of March. Affected staff had left with full pay and redundancy entitlements, and employees had been consulted throughout the process, he added.

Fixed-contract workers at the end of their terms had been chosen for redundancy where possible and long serving employees kept on.

Mr Oldfield added: “There are inevitably going to be further redundancies. There is not enough work to be done in the yard as we move towards the conclusion of the existing work.

“The key is for a successful purchaser to find new work for the yard as quickly as possible, from the existing customer base and I would hope from new customers.”

Interested parties are expected to submit final offers for the business or parts of the business in the coming weeks, which if successful would be followed by final legal work before the sale or sales go ahead.

The $91m (�60.6m) legal claim by Maersk related to a contract to build accommodation modules for rigs in the Al Shaheen oilfield in Qatar in 2006.

Mr Oldfield said the case had collapsed unresolved, leaving Maersk as one of a number of unsecured creditors who may or may not receive a dividend payment towards their losses.

Jobs were temporarily secured following the appointment of the administrator as BP agreed to allow the company to finish work on a major contract, and Mr Oldfield said SLP continued to enjoy the support of its customers and local authorities and politicians.