French bid for Swan Hunter: Second foreign firm considers making offer for embattled Tyneside shipbuilder

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THE BATTLE for control of Swan Hunter heated up yesterday after a second foreign yard disclosed it was preparing to make a bid for the Tyneside warship builder.

The French naval yard, Constructions Mecaniques de Normandie (CMN) based in Cherbourg, indicated it hoped to make a bid in the next month. Last week, Bremer Vulkan of Germany said it was considering an offer.

Swan Hunter went into receivership last May after losing a crucial order for a Royal Navy helicopter carrier. Since then 1,400 of its 2,400 workers have been made redundant as the yard completes work on its only contract for Type 23 frigates.

However, the yard received a lifeline just before Christmas after the European Commission decided it was eligible for subsidies under the merchant shipbuilding intervention fund. The aid is worth 9 per cent of construction costs.

A team from the French yard held talks this week with the receivers from accountants Price Waterhouse and said good progress had been made.

Fred Henderson, chairman of CMN's British subsidiary, CMN Support Services, said: 'We have been very impressed by the high level of commitment to the Swan Hunter cause that is being given by everyone involved.

'Good progress has been made in identifying and clearing the many outstanding matters that need to be resolved, and a programme has been agreed to address these issues. It is hoped that all matters can be resolved in the next few weeks to enable an offer to be made.'

The decision to allow Swan Hunter subsidies was attacked by VSEL which had to close its Cammell Laird yard on Merseyside after failing to get similar access subsidies.

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