Belfast Telegraph

Another hit for Northern Ireland building industry as Mascott goes under with loss of 30 jobs

By Margaret Canning

Up to 30 jobs have been lost after construction firm Mascott went into administration. Administrators were appointed this month to Mascott Construction Ltd in Belfast, which worked on high-profile contracts including the MAC Theatre.

Staff were let go after the company was found to be unfit to keep trading.

In recent years the firm had been carrying out an increasing number of contracts in Great Britain, and in 2016 won an award for the fit-out of a call centre for Firstsource in Cardiff.

It also carried out work on a new stand at Cliftonville's Solitude stadium.

A spokeswoman for business advisors EY said its restructuring specialists Andrew Dolliver and Luke Charleton had been appointed administrators.

However, as a construction firm carrying out major contracts, it is believed to have provided work to large numbers of other sub-contractors.

But since the administrators were appointed on August 10, Gareth Loye, the chief executive of M&M Contractors, has established a new company, Mascott Construction (Europe) Ltd, suggesting that the business's name or assets could be revived under new ownership.

Mascott is the second major Northern Ireland construction firm to go under in recent months, after T&A Kernoghan went into administration in April with the loss of around 50 jobs.

Mascott Construction was set up in 1998. In its accounts for 2014, the company made a loss of £283,000, despite pre-tax profits of £9.4m - down from £13m.

It was also one of four building firms that protested after then Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland claimed in 2013 that they had been overpaid by £18m for Northern Ireland Housing Executive work.

A former contractor for Mascott said: "That turned out not be true, but the idea of owing such a large sum of money hit them enormously."

In 2012, the firm registered a mortgage taken out with Swiss insurer Technical and General Guarantee Company.

John Armstrong, the managing director of industry body the Construction Employers Federation, said the construction sector in Northern Ireland continued to experience difficulties. He added that it was becoming harder than ever before for companies to make money from public sector work.

"The reality is that construction companies in Northern Ireland who work for the public sector are finding margins severely tight, to the extent that it's almost not worth them working in Northern Ireland," he explained.

Gavin McGuire, Northern Ireland director of the Federation of Master Builders said that many Northern Ireland firms had been able to rely on work in Great Britain.

But he added that he feared the pipeline of work had slowed down in recent months and that the vote to leave the EU could have a further detrimental effect.

Last month, a construction bulletin from the Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency indicated that output from builders in Northern Ireland in the first quarter of the year was up 3.4% on the last quarter of 2015, and up 2.3% on the first quarter of 2015.

The expansion in the province was mainly due to 12.9% growth in repair and maintenance.

Belfast Telegraph