Receivers move in at stone restorer

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The Independent Online
SZERELMEY COX, the stone restoration company that brightened the facades of the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Palace of Westminster, has been put into receivership. John Lelliott, the company's parent, yesterday allowed Midland Bank to appoint Coopers & Lybrand as administrative receivers after a 12-month struggle to keep it afloat.

Szerelmey also won the contract to spruce up the external image of the Bank of England last November. A spokesman for the Bank said: 'The scaffolding is already up at the back of the Bank. We have contingency plans, but obviously there may have to be a new contract.'

A subsidiary of the Stone Group, the company has been in financial trouble since its part- owners, John Lelliott, bought Stone outright in February 1992. Harvey Davis, group marketing director of John Lelliott, said: 'We have put in a great deal of capital but the financial situation has deteriorated. We have had to withdraw our support.'

Mr Davis blamed the decision on the recession in the construction industry and the pressure on margins in such a specialised field.

In better times, Szerelmey Cox contributed roughly 10 per cent to John Lelliott's turnover. It is the market leader in stone restoration and boasts an 11 per cent market share. Its main competitor, Stonewest Cox - which can trace it ownership back to the same family of stone restorers - has a 10 per cent share.

'I am very sad to see them go under,' John Wilson, chairman of Stonewest Cox, said. 'The commercial property market is very difficult for both of us at the moment.'