Kent failure blamed on Guy's snags

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DELAYED payments on a pounds 40m building contract for an extension at Guy's Hospital in London were yesterday blamed for pushing Kent Corporation, the Irish-based engineering group, into receivership.

Irish sources said the company was owed between pounds 4m and pounds 6m from the London contract, and this had led Kent's UK subsidiary to cease trading earlier this week after a High Court winding-up petition.

The Irish group, whose UK banker is Barclays, is the main electrical contractor for the new pounds 120m Guy's extension. The Irish parent group's bankers are Allied Irish Banks and BNP.

Kent, an unquoted company, employs 4,500, most on overseas contracts in the Middle East and Africa, which account for 70 per cent of turnover.

The Irish group is reportedly not in dispute with either the Guy's Hospital Trust or the main contractor on the site, Higgs and Hill.

The Irish media yesterday questioned why, if the Guy's contract was the sole problem, the group's banks had not been more flexible, prompting speculation about difficulties in other sectors.

Kent grew from a small electrical supplier in the early Sixties to become one of the largest international suppliers of electrical instrumentation. Its contracts have ranged from helping to build vast chemical and industrial plants to maintaining all of Kuwait's oil refineries.

It had been expected to yield profits of Ir pounds 17m ( pounds 16.3m) this year, but may have run into cash-flow problems recently on the Continent. It closed its German subsidiary last month and is reportedly running down its Dutch venture.