A&P Group Purchases Cammell Laird's Dockyards

Monday, August 20, 2001
Ship repair outfit A&P Group Holdings said on Friday it bought the dockyards of insolvent shipbuilder Cammell Laird, but there was no reprieve for the 204 workers of the northern English firm.

A spokeswoman for Cammell Laird's receivers PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) said the remaining staff at the shipyards would be wound down but no deadline had been set.

Cammell Laird collapsed in April after a series of cancelled orders hit its finances. Earlier this month the firm, a symbol of the decline in British shipbuilding, announced it was to axe 330 U.K. jobs on top of more than 600 job cuts made earlier this year.

Among the famous boats put to sea from Cammell Laird's Mersey docks were the aircraft carrier Ark Royal and the Alabama, a raider designed to fight in the U.S. civil war.

The receiver said the company was not sold as a going concern and any existing contracts would remain its responsibility. Nobody from A&P was available to comment.

The offer from A&P, which is 85-percent owned by Royal Bank Private Equity, part of the Royal Bank of Scotland, was "the best available", the receivers said without disclosing details.

"While the next steps are now the responsibility of A&P we sincerely hope that this sale will provide a successful future for the yards," said PWC receiver Ian Stokoe in a statement.

PWC had been in talks with a number of interested parties and had received two separate management buyout bids for the U.K. shipyard assets, one for both the Birkenhead and Tyneside yards and one for the Birkenhead yard alone.

A&P has bought the plant and equipment on each of the three yards at Birkenhead on Merseyside in north west England, at Hebburn on Tyneside and one at Teeside in north east England.

Based in Southampton on the south coast, A&P employs 2,000 people across six locations in the U.K. and had a turnover of 70 million pounds in 1999/2000.

Its operations involve ship refits and dry-docking, and the company counts P&O Princess Cruises among its customers, having recently completed a refit of the cruise vessel Victoria and with Oriana scheduled for work in December.

"We have confidence in the skills of our workforce and believe this deal gives us the best opportunity of a sustainable future," A&P Chief Executive David Ring said. "And we believe our bid is the best option for maintaining a long-term ship repair capability in the UK and where possible for attracting new work."

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