French pull out of plan to save Swan Hunter yard

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The Independent Online
THE ON-OFF attempt to save the Tyneside shipbuilder Swan Hunter collapsed again yesterday when the French company Soffia/CMN withdrew from negotiations to buy the yard.

Talks between CMN and the receivers, Price Waterhouse, had stalled in the past few weeks over the failure to agree a price for the yard, which now employs 650 people. The workforce was cut from 2,500 after the financial collapse of Swan Hunter 16 months ago.

After further discussions yesterday, the French company pulled out of negotiations for the whole yard. However, it is understood CMN has made a new bid to buy the yard's intellectual property rights, which would include the design team. But a spokewoman for the receiver said: 'Those rights are the guts of the yard and there are other interested parties.'

The Swan Hunter design team, now financed by the receivers, is vital to the future of the yard: without it the company cannot place bids for new ships. The team is due to be made redundant on Friday.

Fred Henderson, chairman of CMN's Support Services in the UK, said the company was considering only one contract with the team, after which it 'would have no requirement' for the yard's design

department.

Mr Henderson said: 'Regrettably, the complete absence of work after the completion of HMS Richmond (in November) results in such risks and liabilities that we cannot economically purchase the business at the price the receivers require.'

Gordon Horsefield, one of the joint receivers, said: 'The gap between us was too large to bridge. Our next task is to discuss the implications with the workforce.'

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