Belfast Telegraph

Collapsed Co Fermanagh firm owed £14m to over 500 creditors

Administrator sold quarry company in a £3.35m deal

By John Mulgrew

A Co Fermanagh family quarry firm owed almost £14m to more than 500 creditors when it entered administration, a report has revealed.

Steel Solutions, also in Fermanagh, was among those hardest hit and came away with a crippling debt of £230,000 following the collapse of P Clarke and Sons.

The business's trade and assets were finally sold off as a pre-pack administration to Co Londonderry engineering and concrete firm FP McCann for £3.35m.

A total of seven businesses put in formal bids between £2.5m and £3m to take over the Lisnaskea firm. It kept on 58 of the firm's staff, but around 30 jobs were lost.

And P Clarke and Sons' bank debts included more than £11m to secured creditor Danske Bank, which the report says is "unlikely" to be "discharged in full".

A detailed breakdown from administrators BDO, filed with Companies House yesterday, shows that around 500 small businesses and individuals were owed money as a result of its administration, amounting to more than £6m.

That includes a host of construction businesses here, and in Great Britain.

Some are owed in excess of £100,000, with HMRC showing debts of around £600,000.

But the report states "it is anticipated that insufficient funds will be available to pay a dividend to unsecured creditors".

Gordon Best, director of Quarry Products Association Northern Ireland, said while the debts left behind were one of the "unfortunate knock-on effects" of companies going under, the takeover by FP McCann had secured jobs.

"FP McCann is a growing company with interests in Great Britain. The life line is very much welcomed," he said.

"It will secure employment in an area of Fermanagh which needs every job it can get."

And he said that debts being left on the heads of smaller businesses had become a commonplace impact of administrations since the downturn.

"It's obviously something the construction industry has witnessed over the last five or six years, with a number of suppliers and contractors going out of business. That's one of the unfortunate knock-on effects when a company goes out of business," he said.

Many of the firm's biggest debts are with firms based in the Republic, or in Great Britain.

Some of the larger amounts owed to businesses in Northern Ireland include Quinn Building Products and Quinn Cement, which is owed £125,000.

P Clarke and Sons had said its administration was due to increased pressure on the firm's cash reserves, hit by a weak euro, cuts in Government contracts and "several unprofitable contracts".

The report says that the transfer of 58 of P Clarke and Sons' staff reduced claims, including redundancy, by more than £600,000.

The administrators BDO said they were "satisfied" the best value had been obtained for the business assets.

Unsecured creditors, who are bottom of the pecking order when a company goes bust, are owed more than £6m in total.

BDO had been taken on by the firm to provide advice on insolvency, before the administration.

But before serious offers to take over the firm were received a non-disclosure agreement was issued to 70 investors and businesses to gauge initial interest.

No-one from FP McCann was available for comment yesterday.

Belfast Telegraph