SLP sale 'buoyed by giant windfarm plan'

Paul Hill, business editorPlans to build nine new windfarms off the British coast should buoy hopes of finding a buyer for one of East Anglia's biggest engineering firms, according to its administrator.Paul Hill, business editor

Plans to build nine new windfarms off the British coast should buoy hopes of finding a buyer for one of East Anglia's biggest engineering firms, according to its administrator.

Lowestoft-based oil and gas engineering firm SLP went into administration in December after months of speculation about its future and a multi-million dollar legal dispute over a Middle East oil deal.

Administrator Stephen Oldfield, of PricewaterhouseCoopers, yesterday said hopes of finding a buyer for SLP had been fuelled by last week's announcement by the Crown Estate of the award of nine offshore windfarm licences.

Among the new windfarms will be the "East Anglian Array", a windfarm of about 1,000 turbines about 15 miles offshore from Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft.

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Mr Oldfield pointed out that SLP's operations included a subsidiary company specializing in wind energy called Sea & Land Power and Energy Ltd.

He also confirmed that work at the Lowestoft yard over Christmas had seen the completion of a major substation for a current offshore windfarm project.

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"A number of the successful bidders for government licences are existing SLP customers and the confirmed licences include a site off the coast off Norfolk and Suffolk which could generate a capacity of up to 7.2 gigawatts," Mr Oldfield said.

"There has already been significant interest in the renewables business and this is a further boost to its prospects. The sale process remains very competitive and over the past seven days we have held productive meetings with both local and central government who have pledged their support to trying to find a buyer for SLP as a going concern."

"In addition, the ongoing commitment of the workforce on the yard in Lowestoft over the Christmas period resulted in the successful completion and sailaway of a major renewables module - a substation for an offshore wind farm - last week. This was a significant achievement and fully demonstrates how the yard has very quickly got back to business as usual following the administration announcement last year."

Concerns about SLP's future were first raised in 2008 when it emerged that the firm was caught in a $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".

he two companies had been in legal arbitration over the dispute but it had put a "significant financial strain" on SLP, according to the administrator.

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