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Lowestoft firm for sale

PUBLISHED: 09:38 04 December 2009 | UPDATED: 15:30 06 July 2010

THE 700-strong workforce at Lowestoft company SLP face an uncertain few weeks as administrators search to find a new buyer for the business.

On Friday last week the workers were told that the company that makes the giant accommodation modules for use in offshore gas and oil exploration across the world had been forced to go in to administration.

THE 700-strong workforce at Lowestoft company SLP face an uncertain few weeks as administrators search to find a new buyer for the business.

On Friday last week the workers were told that the company that makes the giant accommodation modules for use in offshore gas and oil exploration across the world had been forced to go in to administration.

Stephen Oldfield of PricewaterhouseCoopers was appointed as administrator after months of speculation about the firm's future and a multi-million dollar legal dispute over a Middle East oil deal.

Though 45 management jobs were lost immediately, about 700 jobs are safe until SLP completes a separate major project for BP next spring.

Mr Oldfield said talks were continuing with other SLP customers in the hope of persuading them to continue with their projects.

Asked if he expected a single buyer for SLP - which also has operations in Tyneside, Blackpool and New Malden - Mr Oldfield said: “The business based in Blackpool - the precast business which makes sea defences - I think that will be sold separately.

“The remainder of the business has two main facets to it: oil and gas, and wind energy.

“I think the attraction of Lowestoft in relation to the southern North Sea and, in particular, wind energy in the medium to long term means I would expect to see buyers looking at both activities in the town - both oil and gas and wind energy.”

Mr Oldfield said that the new buyer would not face the legal dispute that has dogged SLP in recent months.

Concerns about the business were first raised last year when it emerged that SLP was caught in $91m (£55m) claim-and-counter-claim legal dispute with Maersk over a contract to build accommodation modules for rigs in the Al Shaheen oilfield in Qatar in 2006.

Maersk claimed there had been a “series of commercial, financial and scheduling problems with SLP” over the deal - a claim which SLP rejected as “completely misleading and inaccurate”.

The two companies had been in legal arbitration over the dispute, but it had put “significant financial strain” on SLP, Mr Oldfield said.

“In this situation, administration provides an opportunity to lift the company away from the gloom and despondency of the arbitration hearing and give it a fresh start,” he said.

“It gives a buyer the freedom to buy the business and assets away from the arbitration hearing.”

Earlier this year, SLP chief executive David Edwards said that the company's order book accounted for 3,000 jobs in the wider engineering and energy sector in East Anglia. The firm has grown to become one of Lowestoft's biggest private sector employers since starting out in 1970.

Waveney MP Bob Blizzard has been working to find a solution and this week told the Journal: “I know this is an extremely unsettling and difficult time for the workforce but I remain hopeful that a buyer for the company can be found.

“There is a loyal and skilled workforce here in Lowestoft and there will be a need for the accommodation modules as more offshore windfarms are built.”


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