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Jobs may go as group appoints administrator

More than 50 jobs in Lisburn are in doubt after an administrator was appointed to the sole distributor of Caterpillar construction equipment in Northern Ireland.

Directors of McCormick MacNaughton (NI) in Lisburn appointed PricewaterhouseCoopers as administrator on Monday.

It follows the appointment of a receiver to two companies in the McCormick MacNaughton Group in the Republic last week.

McCormick MacNaughton (NI) Ltd is based at Blaris Industrial Estate and employs 56 people.

PricewaterhouseCoopers administrator Garth Calow said: "Despite the downturn in construction-related activities, the Northern Ireland company has traditionally been profitable, with the trading and financial difficulties relating to wider group operations in the Republic of Ireland.

"This appointment will provide protection for the trading operations in this company, and discussions will continue with Caterpillar to determine how we might maintain trading until a full assessment is undertaken.

"My immediate priority will be to evaluate the company's financial position, and determine the best options for the business and creditors. During this period we will endeavour to maintain business as usual.

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"The situation will become clearer over the next few days, after initial work is undertaken to stabilise affairs of the company."

Difficulties in the company developed after a major expansion in the Republic shortly before the massive downturn in construction.

The firm was set up in Northern Ireland over 50 years ago as part of the McCormick MacNaughton Group, the sole Irish distributor of Caterpillar construction equipment, marine, and power generation products.

It is so far unclear how the other parts of the business in the group will be affected by the administration of McCormick MacNaughton (NI).

In March last year the company in the Republic announced plans to lay off 100 staff after suffering a 75% collapse in business. It posted losses of €11m in 2008 due to the decline of the construction sector.

Accountant Billy O'Riordan was appointed to McCormick Macnaughton and McCormick Macnaughton Power Services by Caterpillar Financial Services, the finance division of the international machinery firm.