TROUBLED Mustang Marine has been bought out of administration by a consortium of investors, securing thirty jobs it was announced yesterday.
The value of the deal has not been disclosed. A consortium of nine individuals led by Stewart Graves has bought the company, which is based at Pembroke Dock. Mr Graves is the interim managing director put in place to run the company late last year by the Milford Haven Port Authority. A new construction hall at Mustang Marine?s base in Pembroke Dock was only opened by Welsh Economy Minister Edwina Hart in November 2013. In February, Mr Graves denied there were any plans to call in administrators when reports suggested the firm was in financial difficulty, describing the firm as being ‘tight for cash’. Later the same month the Herald was able to report that local businesses had been left owed hundreds of thousands of pounds. Mustang has had millions of pounds in funding from the Milford Haven Port Authority and a cash injection from the Welsh government. After calling in the administrators, Mr Graves revealed that the company had a significant cash shortage in December 2013 which left it facing closure. He said with assistance from a new management team and external advisers a long-term funding package was secured in February from the Welsh government and Milford Haven Port Authority and an external third party. However, after completing its review of the business, the external party withdrew its offer, and ?without that party the long-term funding package could not proceed?. The Pembroke Dock-based boat building and ship repair company officially entered administration at the beginning of March with the loss of 66 jobs. Questions were raised to Welsh Government in Cardiff regarding the Port Authority’s responsibilities to local firms and in March, Alec Don, Chief Executive of the Port Authority told The Herald: “The Port of Milford Haven is a 50% shareholder and remains a separate corporate entity to Mustang Marine. The Port is not liable for Mustang’s debts. Any specific questions about that business, including queries about creditors, must be directed to the administrators Grant Thornton.” “As a Trust Port we continually look to invest in growth and economic activity in the Port. On this basis, and in good faith, the Port of Milford Haven invested in Mustang Marine. The company approached us with a firm business plan and orders that required our support and investment to achieve.” However, in an interview at the time of Mustang Marine’s collapse, local MP Simon Hart said: “The fact that Pembrokeshire companies are owed hundreds of thousands of pounds seems to have been glossed over. The Port Authority cannot talk about growth and activity on the one hand and then refuse to even consider the plight of local people left out of pocket on the other. These people undertook work for Mustang as they felt comfortable that the company was part of a larger trading operation of which the Port was a central part.” It has now emerged that HSBC Bank and former Mustang Director Huw Lewis will be receive around £270,000 and £296,000 as secured creditors of the firm, while former employees can expect a share of around £105,000 as preferential creditors. Those figures leave under £950,000 to be distributed to creditors owed more than £3.1m. According to its most recent set of publicly available accounts, the company had a £6m turnover in the year ending 31 August 2012. But turnover subsequently jumped to £9m following Mustang Marine’s £500,000 acquisition of Milford Haven Ship Repair from the MHPA. But the company also saw pretax profits of £847,817 in 2010/11 turn into pre-tax losses of £516,618 in 2011/12. Management accounts for the year to 31 August 2013 show the business then racked up further losses of £602,340, which were recently revised to losses of £1.1m. In a newly published statement of administrator’s proposals, dated 22 April 2014, Grant Thornton examined the dramatic turnaround. It reported that the directors attributed the losses to the company’s failure to hit predicted margins on new-build projects such as Supacat 1, disruption and delays on other contracts caused by delays on Supacat 1, ?375,000 spent on refurbishing its Pembroke Dock office, and a lack of robust business procedures. Grant Thornton were appointed administrators to the boat manufacturer in March this year. Alistair Wardell and Nigel Morris of the business advisory firm’s Cardiff office have now confirmed a sale of the boat-building and marine services arms. Immediately after entering administration, Mustang Marine made 66 staff redundant, with 48 kept on to continue work on a number of projects. The future of 30 of these employees has been secured by the sale, while a further deal for the dry dock part of the business that administrators expect to complete later this week looks set to save another ten jobs. The existing projects that the 30 staff will work on include building a Tidal Energy Turbine that will be installed in Ramsey Sound later this year. Lead administrator and head of Grant Thornton in Wales Mr Wardell, said: “We are delighted to have been able to conclude a deal for the boat building and marine services parts of the Mustang business. This is very good news for the 30 skilled employees who ave remained working for the company through the administration process. Their jobs are now secure, and the new owners are confident that the business will now grow with the aim of taking on further employees in the near future.” Administrators have said that the workers will be retained to work on projects including a tidal energy turbine. Grant Thornton said talks with ‘an interested buyer’ for the facility are continuing.