Sale talks offer hope for engineering jobs

NEARLY 600 jobs at troubled Lowestoft engineering firm SLP could be saved after a Dutch energy group signalled its intention to buy the business.

Administrators at PriceWater-houseCoopers (PwC) confirmed they had entered exclusive talks with Zefier UK II, a subsidiary of Dutch-based Smulders, with a view to completing the sale of SLP.

SLP went into administration last November after becoming embroiled in a US$91million (�60m) legal claim by Danish conglomerate Maersk relating to a previous contract in Qatar, leaving hundreds of workers facing an uncertain future.

Zefier has now acquired SLP subsidiary Sea and Land Power and Energy (SLPE), the company’s energy arm, securing 17 jobs.

And while no final agreement has yet been reached, Zefier now has an eight-week “exclusivity period” in which to hammer out a deal on the engineering business, which forms the vast bulk of SLP.

While only a comparatively small company, SLPE is seen as key to the future success of SLP, pulling in work from the huge expansion in offshore wind power. Sites including the East Anglia Array off the region’s coast are set for thousands of turbines under the third round of the national roll-out of offshore windfarms, which are set to make a major contribution to the UK’s energy needs.

However, depite the positive signs, Stephen Oldfield, of PwC, said 60 SLP workers would be made redundant during May as work on existing contracts dried up, with further job losses possible. About 100 jobs were also lost in March.

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Mr Oldfield warned nothing was certain until the sale of the main part of the business was completed.