Swan Hunter goes down amid recriminations

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The Independent Online
ATTEMPTS to save the Swan Hunter shipyard on Tyneside ended in acrimony yesterday when Soffia/CMN of France withdrew an offer to place a short-term design contract with the yard to secure the jobs of the design team.

The 100 designers will be declared redundant next week by receivers at Price Waterhouse, leaving Swan Hunter unable to bid for contracts.

A spokeswoman for the receivers said talks would be held at the end of next week on the future of the other 560 employees at the shipyard. Work at Swan will run out in November and it seems likely that redundancies will begin within weeks. Price Waterhouse said it would proceed with the piecemeal sale of the business.

Gordon Horsfield, one of the joint receivers, said: 'This is the third proposal we have considered from Soffia/CMN in as many weeks, and each has failed to come to fruition. The frustration felt by the design team, and the bitterness of the whole Swan Hunter workforce, can only be imagined as their hopes have been raised and dashed once again.'

Soffia/CMN, which has been in negotiation with the receivers for 15 months, said yesterday that it was not prepared to begin paying the designers without a guarantee that it would be able to buy the Hebburn dry dock and the yard's intellectual property rights.

The receivers have said there are other offers on the table to buy parts of the yard and the intellectual property.

Fred Henderson, chairman of CMN Support Services in the UK, was angered by the statement published by the receivers, which he described as somewhat inaccurate.

'We are as disappointed and frustrated as anyone can be that our earlier proposals have not succeeded. These proposals have cost us time and money, and they all stemmed from the inability of the receivers to sell Swan Hunter on a going concern basis, the only basis on which we were prepared to buy.'

He said that no other offers had been forthcoming to buy Swan Hunter as a going concern.