Marconi rescues Govan shipyard

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The Independent Online
AN OUTLINE deal to save the closure-listed Kvaerner Govan shipyard in Glasgow - and 1,200 jobs - was signed yesterday after a negotiating session lasting more than 24 hours.

The two companies involved - Kvaerner, the yard's Norwegian owners, and bidders Marconi Electronic Systems - said they had signed a "heads-of- agreement" deal for the sale of the yard. A full detailed agreement is expected before the end of September.

"The signing of a `heads-of-agreement' means that the immediate threat to large scale redundancies at the yard can now be lifted," a spokesman for Kvaerner said.

Under the deal, the Norwegians will sell the yard to Marconi for pounds 2.25m but all operating assets and liabilities will remain part of Kvaerner's account, as will responsibility for the completion of the two vessels being built there.

Marconi has agreed to transfer work to the Glasgow yard, providing employment for many of the existing staff up to the point of completion, by the end of September. Kvaerner will finance are any redundancies at the yard in the 42 months after that date, but the company's president, Kjell Almskog, said: "Marconi have assured us that their aim is to secure a long-term future for the yard."

The yard's GMB general workers' union convener Jamie Webster said of the news: "It's absolutely fantastic. The atmosphere here is electric, people are over the moon... The next stage is to get back to work, get some orders and prove to Marconi that we are the best in the business."

Mr Almskog added: "Uncertainty has surrounded the future of the Govan yard ever since we made a strategic decision earlier this year to make a complete exit from our global shipbuilding activities.

"The past few weeks have been extremely difficult for our workforce. We still have some way yet to go to make this deal really work, but all the parties are now determined to make that a reality." He described the deal as a "balanced" solution reflecting the interests of the workers, shareholders and the Govan community".

Yesterday's deal followed a "handshake" general agreement reached late on Tuesday after the two companies were brought together at the behest of John Reid, the Secretary of State for Scotland, and the Scottish Office Industry minister, Lord Macdonald of Tradeston.

Dr Reid said yesterday that over the holiday period the two companies would confer on the details of a "substantial" injection of work into the yard.

"A new future beckons for the Govan yard but the months ahead will not be easy," he said.

"First we have to see a final agreement. Then Marconi and the Govan workforce will have to work extremely hard to secure future orders in an intensely competitive world market. But today's agreement is a huge step forward."

Outlook, Business, page 21

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