Belfast Telegraph

Engineering firm facing sale after owner folds

By Margaret Canning & Jamie Grierson

An engineering firm which was founded in Northern Ireland is facing an uncertain future after its Australian owner collapsed.

Rotary UK and Rotary Ireland are expected to be sold after administrators PPB Advisory were appointed to parent company Hastie Group due to its "extreme financial situation".

Around 2,700 people were instantly stood down in Australia after the Australian Stock Exchange-listed group folded.

Phill Laidlaw, chief executive of Rotary UK and Republic of Ireland, said they were unaffected by the insolvency.

"Although we are saddened by the insolvencies in Australia, this is an opportunity for Rotary UK and Republic of Ireland to emerge as a separate independent group. Preparations for a rapid sale of business process are already under way in order to sell the Rotary UK and Republic of Ireland businesses as going concerns."

Economist John Simpson said Rotary Limited, registered in Northern Ireland and the parent company of 12 UK subsidiaries, had recently made a loss.

"In June last year it was declaring for the first time operating and pre-tax losses. There was a pre-tax loss of £1.6m, and it was employing 890 people. That loss was down from a profit of £6.7m a year before."

But he said Rotary had long been a prosperous company in Northern Ireland, where it was founded by the Jennings family in 1954.

"Until they were taken over by the Australians, this was a very major contributor to electrical and mechanical engineering in the Northern Ireland construction industry and was trading very handsomely, employing 2,713 people."

The Rotary Group, which has an international division that will remain under the control of administrators, employs 2,000 staff and is headquartered in Warrington, Cheshire.

Rotary has worked on the new home of the BBC at Media City, in Salford Quays, and includes supermarkets Morrisons and Waitrose among its clients.

The business, with offices in Chester, Mallusk, Livingston, Leeds, Newcastle and London, was bought by Hastie for more than £100m four years ago.

Rotary is a specialist in providing air conditioning, mechanical, industrial and maintenance services primarily to the healthcare, education, industrial, commercial and retail sectors.

Hastie, with 7,000 staff worldwide, was pushed to the edge last week when 20m Australian dollars (£12m) in accounting irregularities were uncovered.