Belfast Telegraph

Mivan a leader in seeking out global contracts


Antrim firm Mivan has a distinguished history of carrying out the plushest and poshest fit-outs on ships and buildings around the world, a history which it was keen to highlight even while announcing its administration.

It was the largest general contractor at Disneyland Paris, and carried out development for Universal Studios in Orlando.

It has also refurbished luxury liner the QE2 twice, and fitted out the inside of the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood. And in Jerusalem, it re-roofed the Dome of the Rock mosque.

Mivan has also picked up a cabinet-full of trophies for its construction prowess since Ivan McCabrey started the business as a civil engineering student in 1975.

But all the awards and past successes in the world can't make up for the extra-competitive environment in which it has recently pitched for work.

International rival fit-out firms have merged so that they have a better chance of winning tenders, making it harder for a relatively small outfit like Mivan to compete.

It had hoped that a merger with Lagan Group Holdings would resolve that, but those merger talks collapsed this week.

Nearly all construction firms have looked abroad for work in the last few lean years at home, but Mivan was one of the first to look at international markets, branching out into Iraq in the 1980s, where it worked on Saddam Hussein's palace, and in Romania, where it took up infrastructure work after the fall of Nicolae Ceaucescu's Communist regime in the late 1980s. An unfortunate consequence of its exporting came in 1992 when 90 staff were held hostage in Iraq.

It is the ultimate outcome of its Romanian work which has inflicted the greatest damage.

It undertook work on shopping centres in the country but fellow investors fled and left Mivan carrying a heavy burden of debt.

At present it has plenty of contracts on its books, and is manufacturing specialist joinery including European oak wardrobes, staircases and bathroom vanity units for two swish residential schemes in Kensington and Fitzrovia in London.

But meeting the costs of those projects demands millions.

At its 30th anniversary celebrations in 2006, business development director Mervyn McCall joked that being established in the same year as Microsoft (1975) had kept it on its toes.

But even Microsoft would find the going tough if it was in Mivan's shoes at the moment.

Belfast Telegraph