East Anglia: Sterling Helicopters assets attract potential buyers

POTENTIAL buyers have emerged for some of the assets of Sterling Helicopters, the firm’s liquidator has revealed.

Sterling, based at Norwich airport, went into compulsory liquidation at the end of July after two creditors went to the courts.

Liquidator Matt Howard, a partner at accountancy firm PKF, said that there had been “genuine interest” from a number of parties about acquiring some of the firm’s assets, although a sale of the whole operation now appeared to be unlikely.

Sterling was founded by Gerry Hermer, a former RAF search and rescue commander in 1989, but was sold to aviation and property group Longmint in 2005. Mr Hermer stayed with the business until 2010, when he retired as managing director.

Sterling’s future first came into doubt earlier this year with the departure of a number of key personnel who were licensed to operate the firm’s aircraft. It is understood those staff had not been paid. The Civil Aviation Authority withdrew its air operators certificate for Sterling in February.

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While the firm boasted more than 50 staff in 2010, only 19 remained with the company at the point of entering liquidation last month. They were all made redundant by the Official Receiver.

Creditors Toby Blackwell Ltd and the charity East Anglian Air Ambulance (EAAA) had applied to the High Court for Sterling to be placed into liquidation.

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The EAAA had withdrawn its contract from Sterling earlier this year, switching operations to Bond Aviation.

Mr Howard said that debt and financing arrangements for the aircraft made it unlikely a buyer would be easily found but other assets were attracting possible buyers.

“The hangar and the offices have proved very interesting to people and there are lots of lines of inquiry,” said Mr Howard.

“As regards the aircraft, I doubt that we’ll be able to sell those easily, if at all. But all of the associated kit and equipment has also attracted quite a bit of interest.”

However, he added: “It won’t be a turn-key sale; you won’t get someone suddenly flying aircraft next week. It will be a break-up.”

n Any parties with expressions of interests in any part of the Sterling business should contact PKF on 01603 615914.

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