Carillion collapse disaster for Clyde nuclear base workers
Local jobs and small businesses under threat as Base contracts blow up in their faces
Exclusive by BILL HEANEY
February 7, 2018 – About £2 million worth of a £45 million building contract being carried out at the Clyde Naval Base on the Gareloch has been abandoned by sub-contractors who have been left high and dry following the financial collapse of Carillion.
Armed security at the Base gates at Faslane has been stepped up in the wake of the shock announcement that the contracts and services giant has gone bust.
Insiders say there is a real concern amongst Ministry of Defence bosses that sub-contractors, who now face receiving no money for completed work, are dismantling items and equipment they have already installed and spiriting them away from the nuclear submarine establishment.
“We are never going to see a penny of what we spent on this job. It’s a disaster for us,” one workman said on Monday.
A Base spokesperson said today: “Although we do not comment on individual security arrangements at HMNB Clyde, we can confirm that following the liquidation announcement, the Carillion site at the Naval Base was made safe and secure with sub-contractors allowed escorted access to retrieve their tools and personal belongings.
“The value of the Carillion contract at HMNB Clyde was some £45M and is estimated to be 90 per cent complete. Interim arrangements are in place to provide the services which Carillion had provided to the Base.”
One journeyman, working for a sub-contractor, told The DEMOCRAT: “We were only taking what was ours, our tools and some of the expensive moveable items we put there and for which we will never get paid.
“It’s not Carillion who are the sufferers here. It’s the people like us, much smaller companies who have taken on the work. I would not be surprised if a lot of local people lose their jobs over this and that their businesses will go to the wall.”
Meanwhile at Westminster, the Work and Pensions and Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committees have questioned Carillion’s former directors.
These include the financial directors, and remuneration committee chair on the culture, governance, business model and operations.
Carillion has been described by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), representing tens of thousands of its suppliers, as a notorious late payer that was abusing its dominant market position.
MPs are asking how a company that was signed off by KPMG as a going concern in Spring 2017 could crash into liquidation months later? As borrowing, liabilities and the pension deficit ballooned into the billions, were they working on the assumption that they were too big to fail”.
Witnesses were questioned on the foreseeability of collapse; their accounting practices; risky contracts; levels of borrowing; dividends, salary and bonus pay outs and the huge pension deficit, which increased massively over a ten-year period while the company clearly treated its obligations to multiple pension schemes as subordinate to all other calls –dividends, bonuses, debt – on the business.
The shame-faced Carillion bosses admitted sheepishly that while many, many workers and businesses would suffer financial hardship from the collapse their own salaries and pensions were safe.
The witnesses who have been called include Keith Cochrane, CEO, 10 July 2017 – 15 January 2018; Zafar Khan, CFO, 1 January 2017 – 11 September 2017; Emma Mercer, CFO, 11 September 2017 – 15 January 2018; Philip Green CBE, Chairman, May 2014 – January 2018; Richard Adam, Finance Director, April 2007 – December 2016; Richard Howson, Chief Executive, December 2009 – July 2017, and Alison Horner, Chair of Remuneration Committee, December 2013 – January 2018.
Carillion had no assets left to sell
A compulsory liquidation order was made against Carillion, on the petition of the company’s’ directors, on 15 January 2018.
Compulsory liquidation is a court-based procedure through which company assets are realised for the benefit of creditors.
Various business commentators have suggested that Carillion went into compulsory liquidation rather than administration because it had no real assets left to sell. It had contracts, but they were either too complex or insufficiently valuable for the banks to lend against.
The High Court appointed the Official Receiver as liquidator. The liquidator must act in the interests of the body of creditors as a whole.
It is a feature of the Carillion liquidation that the Official Receiver is expected to prioritise the continuity of vital public services while securing the best outcome for creditors.
Unless told otherwise, all employees, agents and subcontractors providing public services are being asked to continue to work as normal and they will be paid for the work they do during the liquidations by the Official Receiver.
It is too early to predict what, if anything, creditors will recover. The Special Managers have already said that there is no prospect of any return to Carillion shareholders. The Insolvency Service has also announced that bonuses and severance payments have not been made to directors since the date of the company’s collapse.
On 16 January 2018, the Government announced that the Official Receiver’s investigation into the causes of the failure of Carillion is to be fast-tracked. The investigation is to look at the conduct of directors in charge at the time of the company’s insolvency and also the conduct of previous directors, to determine whether their actions might have caused detriment to the company’s creditors (including detriment to any employees who are owed money or to the pension schemes).
On 10 July 2017, Carillion said that its profits would be hit to the tune of £845 million. As a consequence, its chief executive resigned and there would be no dividends that year. The shares lost 70% of their value over the announcement and the two days that followed.
Although the July 2017 profit warning marks the beginning of the end for Carillion, it is poor decisions in the years leading up to it that caused the company serious trouble. Of the £845m charge, Carillion said that £375m related to the UK (mostly three PPP projects) and £470m to overseas markets (mostly exiting markets in the Middle East and Canada).
On 29 September 2017, Carillion’s half-year financial statements revealed a total hit to the company’s worth of £1.2 billion – enough to wipe out the profits from the previous eight years put together.
In the eight years from 2009 to 2016, Carillion paid out £554 million in dividends, three quarters of the cash it made from operations. In the five-and-half-year period from January 2012 to June 2017, Carillion paid out £333 million more in dividends than it generated in cash from its operations.
Over the eight years from December 2009 to January 2018, the total owed by Carillion in loans increased from £242 million to an estimated £1.3 billion – more than five times the value at the beginning of the decade.
Carillion has 13 UK defined benefit pension schemes with 27,000 members. The schemes have an estimated Pension Protection Fund (PPF) deficit (the shortfall compared to what is needed to pay PPF compensation levels) of around £800-900 million (Letter to Work and Pensions Select Committee, 26 January 2018; Financial Times, 15 January 2018).
Former Pensions Minister Steve Webb told the Guardian that “Carillion would be the biggest-ever hit on the PPF” but that the lifeboat would be able to “comfortably absorb” the Carillion scheme. Seven of the Carillion pension schemes, with 6,000 members, are already in a Pension Protection Fund assessment period (to determine whether the PPF should take responsibility for them).
Carillion’s pension deficit was one of the largest among FTSE 350 companies. It was the 15th or 7th largest on different measures.
Public sector contracts
Carillion was a major supplier to the public sector in the UK, delivering around 450 contracts with government across a range of areas. The government are providing funding to the Official Receiver to maintain public sector services following the insolvency of Carillion, until a suitable alternative is found.
Suppliers and payment terms
Carillion owed around £2 billion to its 30,000 suppliers, sub-contractors and other short-term creditors. Most of them risk getting little or nothing back from the liquidation, because they have low priority in the hierarchy of creditors. Carillion had been criticised for paying its suppliers late since at least 2013, when it had increased its maximum payment terms to suppliers to 120 days. The average number of days taken by Carillion to pay its suppliers and subcontractors is estimated to have been around 90 days between 2011 and 2016.