Harland & Wolff administrators won't confirm ‘credible’ bids for Belfast shipyard
Two "credible" bids have now been received for stricken Belfast shipyard Harland & Wolff, it's been claimed.
DUP leader Arlene Foster and the party's East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson made the claim following a meeting with business advisors BDO, who were appointed administrators two weeks ago.
However, BDO would not confirm whether two bids were now on the table, nor the identity of any firms behind the bids.
Harland & Wolff has been facing financial difficulties following a downturn in business and the bankruptcy of its Norwegian parent company Dolphin Drilling, formerly Fred Olsen Energy. And most of its 123 staff have been occupying the site for around four weeks as they repeat calls for the UK Government to renationalise the business.
Mr Robinson said he and Mrs Foster had held a "positive" meeting with the administrators.
"It was encouraging to hear that there are two valid and credible bids. These bidders recognised the skill of the workers employed by Harland & Wolff and this will be welcome news for those employees," he said.
Last Friday the administrators announced there had been an extension of an arrangement to lay off the workers temporarily - a move which preserves their employment contracts, even though they are not getting paid.
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Mr Robinson said: "It is important that the administrators now take the next steps to look at the potential of each bidder, which will provide the best outcome for Harland & Wolff.
"Along with the DUP leader, I have been working diligently to ensure the government recognise the need for action on this matter. We have had high-level discussions and will ensure engagement continues to provide a sustainable future for Harland & Wolff."
Newry family company MJM Group had been linked to the company but is no longer thought to be in talks. And US investment firm Flacks Group also made an offer for the business before administrators were appointed. However, the offer was not regarded as viable by H&W.
Meanwhile, a Queen's University professor has urged the public and politicians to back the yard due to its role in creating a sustainable economy.
John Barry, a professor of green political economy at Queen's, has written an open letter seeking support for the shipyard. He said: "Most of the work done at the site over the past decade has been in renewable energy, mainly offshore wind turbines, and the workforce is highly skilled and specialised with a clear strategic importance for a future transition to a low-carbon economy and society.
"If we are serious about creating a green and sustainable economy, we do not simply need to defend jobs at Harland & Wolff, we need to expand them."