Belfast Telegraph

251 jobs lost as machinery hire firm Hewden goes into administration

Heavy machinery firm Hewden has fallen into administration, just weeks after flagging that Brexit was hitting its business - resulting in the loss of 251 jobs.

The Manchester-based rental company said in October that it had been impacted by "market uncertainty following the vote to leave the EU", adding that the vote "adversely affected" a number of large construction and investment projects.

Loss-making Hewden has also been weighed down by debt, and private equity owner Sun Capital Partners has been scrambling to refinance its borrowings or find new backers in recent weeks.

However, on Tuesday it called in accountancy giant EY to oversee an administration, with around 350 jobs hanging in the balance as a new buyer is sought.

Joint administrator Sam Woodward said: "Management has been attempting to operationally reshape the business to focus on higher margin and quicker returning assets and services.

"However, this has proven challenging with the group's capital structure and the recent trading environment. Management recently undertook a number of initiatives including approaching new funders and potential acquirers to recapitalise the business, but unfortunately these efforts proved unsuccessful."

A total of 133 jobs will be saved after rival Ashtead snapped up three divisions of the group for £29 million. Ashtead also acquired the Hewden brand name.

Mr Woodward added: "We are assessing the optimum strategy for maximising value in the remainder of the group. In the meantime, we will continue to work with stakeholders to maintain service levels to customers who have assets on hire."

The news was described as a "sickening blow" by Britain's largest union, Unite, as it pledged to fight to secure as many jobs as possible.

Unite national officer Bernard McAulay said: "This is a sickening blow for workers in the run-up to Christmas and is the result of a succession of venture capitalists hawking Hewden around the market over a number of years to make a quick buck.

"Unite will be fighting to secure the futures of Hewden workers and supporting them in any way we can through this difficult time.

"Unite will also be working closely with the administrators to ensure workers aren't short-changed out of their pensions and that a future for the company's workers can be secured."