Belfast Telegraph

Harland & Wolff owner takes reins after £3.3m is paid to administrator

InfraStrata moved in to rescue the ship yard after its previous owner got into financial difficulty.
InfraStrata moved in to rescue the ship yard after its previous owner got into financial difficulty.
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

The new owner of Harland & Wolff is to take possession of the historic shipyard today as it pays £3.3m to the administrators of the business.

Infrastrata plc plans to use the shipyard which built the Titanic for fabrication work in its underground natural gas storage project in Islandmagee near Larne.

Infrastrata chief executive John Wood has said that buying Harland & Wolff would save it £45m of a proposed spend of £303m on the Islandmagee project.

But it is also hoping to secure other shipbuilding projects in the future. At its peak, Harland & Wolff employed 35,000 people, and built 140 ships during the Second World War.

Infrastrata has already paid a deposit of £500,000 to business advisory firm BDO, which was appointed administrators to the yard in August.

However, a further £3.3m is now to be paid in the deal for a total of £6m for the multi-purpose fabrication facility, quaysides and docking facilities.

The deal rescued the jobs of 79 shipyard workers who had mounted a protest at the gates of the shipyard calling for a government bail-out after it went into administration.

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BDO was appointed administrator after the shipyard's former Norwegian owner Dolphin Drilling filed for bankruptcy - cutting off funding for Harland & Wolff. The legacy of the company's pension fund had also proved a burden on Harland & Wolff's finances.

Law firm Fieldfisher said it had advised Infrastrata on the deal during two months of what it called "intensive" negotiations. Fieldfisher said it had helped Infrastrata prepare its bid for Harland & Wolff - and later helped it arrange the payment of a deposit of £500,000, as well as advising on due diligence, transfer of leaseholds and a final asset purchase agreement.

Fieldfisher also advised the company on an equity placing to raise £6m and a further £1m fundraise via an offer to shareholders to help fund the acquisition and ongoing working capital requirements.

The firm said it will continue to advise Infrastrata, including "providing relevant specialist assistance" as the company starts construction of Islandmagee next year.

But Infrastrata still needs to secure a marine licence for the conduct of the work at Islandmagee.

Michelle Shean, insolvency and restructuring partner at Fieldfisher, who led the team advising InfraStrata, said: "We are delighted to have helped InfraStrata successfully conclude its purchase of Harland & Wolff and we look forward to assisting them with the next phases of developing Islandmagee. Fieldfisher is fortunate to be at the forefront of many critical UK energy developments, but we are particularly pleased to have been part of this unique project that simultaneously protects the future of an historic British asset and national energy security."

InfraStrata has also announced a new venture with a Spanish shipbuilder which is expected to bring more work to Harland & Wolff.

The company has signed a memorandum of understanding with Navantia.

It said the companies will now work on a "multitude of infrastructure and marine projects to take them to commercial fruition".

Belfast Telegraph