Jobs saved as Haymills takeover sealed

THE jobs of hundreds of workers at a Suffolk building firm have been saved after it was successfully purchased by a French construction giant.

Elliot Furniss

THE jobs of hundreds of workers at a Suffolk building firm have been saved after it was successfully purchased by a French construction giant.

The East Anglian operation of Haymills, which is based in Stowmarket, employs more than 400 staff and has been included in a takeover by Vinci that was competed yesterday.

Senior Vinci staff were in Stowmarket last night to brief employees and explain how the company will operate in the future.

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The Haymills name will be retained but its branding will be brought in line with Vinci style and the company will now be a trading entity of Vinci Construction UK Ltd.

The buyout of the majority of the Haymills Group also included its Property Solutions business, based in Huntingdon, but only 433 of about 700 employees in the UK and Gibraltar have kept their jobs.

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David Joyce, chief operating officer of Vinci Plc and managing director of Vinci Construction UK Ltd, said: “The acquisition is a significant step in our strategy of consolidating our presence in the sectors of FM and maintenance, as well as giving us a presence in the East Anglian region through the contracting side of the Haymills business.”

Stephen Oldfield, joint administrator and partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, which oversaw the deal, said there had been an “intense period of activity” over the last few days.

It has emerged that serious problems with the Haymills Group's Gibraltar business had been at the root of its financial strife, which reached breaking point two weeks ago when the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) suspended all payments from its overdraft facility.

Mr Oldfield said: “We are very pleased to announce the sale of the majority of the Haymills group to VINCI Construction UK Limited.

“We feel that this represents the best outcome for the business and will ensure the Haymills brand continues to exist and provide this well known East Anglian business with a more secure future.

“The group was facing severe difficulties meeting their financial obligations and losses in its Gibraltar subsidiary. As a deal with a potential purchaser could not be concluded in time, we immediately initiated an urgent search for a buyer.

“The claim from Gibraltar rendered the UK group insolvent which left no alternative but to conclude a sale out of administration.

“This is a prime example of when a pre-pack sale can be the best option. In this case, as this is a contracting company, any attempt to sell this type of business after an administration appointment is fraught with legal and operational difficulties which would have likely caused the business to collapse.”

However, although the Suffolk-based Haymills staff will be kept on and brought up to date with their pay, the situation is not so clear for the many sub-contractors owed hundreds of thousands of pounds by the firm.

Mr Oldfield said it would be “many months” before the position became clear as to how much money would become available to pay to “insecure creditors”, including sub-contractors.

An RBS spokesperson said it had been a “complex situation” and it had needed to act in a “prudent manner”.

The spokesman said: “The bank understands that partners of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP have now been appointed as Administrators of the Haymills companies following an application to the court.

“The bank views any administration as a last resort and is committed to working closely with companies in difficulty to ensure that other possibilities are explored.

“In some cases the trading position of a company is such that the alternatives are very limited and the bank must act in a prudent manner, having regard to all interests, which may be lead to the decision that it cannot increase, or continue its lending.

“These situations are complex and require consideration of a number of competing issues, often with little time available. Accordingly such decisions are not taken lightly.”

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