Cornish and Scottish plant-hire firms collapse

Two plant-hire companies at opposite ends of the UK are on the path towards liquidation or administration.

Fife-based James Penman (Plant Hire) Limited announced on its website that its affairs, business and property have been managed by joint provisional liquidators since 5 March.

In Cornwall, meanwhile, on 12 March, the plant-hire division of Duchy Group announced its intention to appoint an administrator.

James Penman (Plant Hire) Limited

The business announced that Callum Carmichael and Michelle Elliot from FRP Advisory were appointed by the Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court in a winding-up order earlier this month.

Carmichael noted in a statement that James Penman had “struggled to maintain its financial obligations” that arose during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The SME’s website is inactive, and calls by Construction News to its office number have gone unanswered.

All of the firm’s 35 employees have been made redundant. Carmichael said FRP Advisory is now focusing on winding down the business, while also supporting ex-staff with their applications to the Redundancy Payments Service.

In a court order, sheriff Robert More noted that “since the petition was lodged, demands for payment have been made of the company”, adding “there are concerns that the company’s assets are at risk of being dissipated” and that he decided to appoint Carmichael and Elliot as a result.

Established in 1974, James Penman provided self-operated and customer-operated construction plant throughout the central belt of Scotland.

Its most recent accounts, covering the year ending 30 September 2022, showed fixed assets of £1.4m (down from £1.6m the previous year), net assets of £529,102 (almost half of its 2020/21 total of £953,789) and just £140 cash at bank and in hand.

The plant-hire firm owed creditors £997,083, including £156,943 in bank overdrafts and loans.

Duchy Plant Hire

Nanpean-based Duchy Plant Hire employs 38 staff and operates about 400 items of equipment. It is part of the Duchy Group of companies that also includes Aardvark Haulplant, Duchy Civils and Duchy Demolition — all of which remain trading, group chief executive Jamie Shelton confirmed to CN.

Duchy Group said earlier this month that it intended to place its plant-hire business into administration.

Duchy Plant Hire had been involved in a number of jobs in Cornwall last year, such as work to strip out the former county council offices in Truro.

Its latest accounts showed that the firm’s net assets had trebled from £1.6m in 2021 to £4.8m the year after. But short-term debt repayable within 12 months rose from £1.6m to £2.5m, while long-term creditors were owed £9.8m compared with £7.8m in 2021.

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