Belfast Telegraph

Co Down building firm Ferguson Homes crumbles under the weight of £11m debt

Administrators appointed at 65-year-old firm

By Margaret Canning

Administrators have been appointed to a 65-year-old building company in Co Down.

FT Ferguson & Company was founded by Tommy Ferguson in Bangor in 1949.

Trading as Ferguson Homes, the family company built a number of developments in places including Newtownards, Antrim, Jordanstown and Greenisland.

But accounts show that the firm owes Ulster Bank millions of pounds. Brian Murphy and Michael Jennings of BDO were appointed joint administrators on August 27.

Mr Murphy said the firm no longer had employees so there were no job losses. "There are only directors and our appointment was consensual as part of a plan to wind the company down." he said

Documents filed for the year ending March 31, 2012 showed there were bank loans and overdrafts to Ulster Bank of £11,617,89.

John Armstrong, managing director of the Construction Employers Federation, said the sector was still fragile despite some positive indicators.

"News that Ferguson Homes has ceased trading, whilst not a surprise, marks another sad day for the local construction industry," he added.

"This company was one of the most well established house-building companies in Northern Ireland for decades, but has finally succumbed to the harsh trading conditions of recent years.

"This company's demise highlights the ongoing fragility of the house-building sector in Northern Ireland.

"There are clear indications that the local housing market is recovering as transactions and prices increase.

"However, private house-building has not yet picked up on the back of that improvement. Private housing starts for 2013/14 were down 13% on 2012/13 and are at about one-third of the number of starts in 2003/04. Year-on-year private housing completions are also down 11%.

"Government estimates that we need 12,700 new units every year between now and 2025. Last year, around 8,000 units were delivered. We need to substantially increase the supply of new private housing.

"The Northern Ireland Executive has an important role to play in making that possible."

Mr Armstrong also said the house-building sector still faced a number of major obstacles to continued recovery.

"A debt hangover lingers, many homeowners are locked in negative equity, interest rates rises are on the horizon and banks remain reluctant to lend for development," he said.

"With so many other challenges at present, we certainly do not believe that the time is right for the Government to be introducing developer contributions for social and affordable housing."

Ferguson Homes had won a number of awards over the years, including a place in the top 10 of the Daily Express's list of UK home-builders.

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