Running a French Holiday Gite in Rural Brittany

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Speedferries Administrators' Statement of Proposals

Continuing the story of speedferries in administration after the notice to creditors, and of my own situation as a creditor of the company.

Over Christmas I received from Asda Mastercard a "dispute claim letter" requesting details of the nature of my credit card dispute, why I wanted to make a claim on my credit card, whether I had attempted to resolve the dispute with the supplier, etc.

I duly wrote them a letter explaining the background to my SpeedFerries advanced ticket purchase with details of the unused tickets I was claiming for, details of the company's fall into administration, and enclosed a copy of the Administrator's Notice to Creditors which set out the wind-up of SpeedFerries as a going concern.

Over on SpeedFerries website the Administrators have recently posted on the SF website a guide to credit card customers (and providers) in making a claim.

So far no response forthcoming from Asda; I'll let you know what happens.

Today I received another email from the SpeedFerries Administrators setting out details of their proposals to deal with "SpeedFerries in Administration". These creditor proposals are also published on the SF website along with details of the creditors and debtors, and make interesting if despondent reading.

SpeedFerries was setup in 2002 by Curt Stavis, began operating in 2004, and has made a trading loss every year since - accumulating to some £15m as at July 2008. In the latter end of last year the company experienced severe cash flow problems brought on by rising fuel prices and a decline in ticket and retail sales. Although shareholders had previously bailed the company out, on this occasion they declined to do so.

Problems escalated when the Port of Boulogne issued a claim for £1.3m of unpaid port fees, and subsequently seized SpeedOne on 6th November 2008.

As I read the 36 page administrators report it's clear the size of the problem that SpeedFerries faced. Under administration they've had to borrow a further £200,000 from Bank of Scotland in order to pay staff wages and ongoing costs (such as maintaining SpeedOne in saleable condition) but have only been able to identify some £60,000 of cash and money owed - not all of which they expect to receive.

SpeedFerries owe some £12.6m to Bank of Scotland (marine mortgage) and to Incat (the Australian manufacturers of SpeedOne). The companies principal asset is SpeedOne itself and the administrators are currently going through the judicial sale process to realise the maximum value for the boat.

131 staff of SpeedFerries have now lost their jobs - some of which from the list of staff creditors look likely to be married couples now both out of work (and all will only get the statutory minimum redundancy payment), roughly £3.7m is owed to some 200 trade creditors of which the largest sums are £1.3m to the Port of Boulogne, £1,100 to HM Revenue & Customs and a smaller £238k to Dover Harbour Board; a further £3.6m is owed to 50,300 customers with pre-paid tickets and a 100 or so investors in the company will also lose out.
I did have a wry smile from noticing that B&Q owe SpeedFerries 2p, some £3,182 is owed to a dry cleaning company, £500 to Microsoft AdCentre, £3,847 to Google Adwords and a massive £14,000 to the Douwe Egberts Coffee company!

The Administrators predict that after the sale of SpeedOne and realisation of any other company assets it's unlikely that the secured creditors (Bank of Scotland, Incat and the 131 company employees) will receive a full reimbursement, and so as a result the unsecured creditors (myself included as a customer creditor) will get nowt.

Us creditors are informed that because of the unlikelihood of payment the administrators don't intend to organise a creditors meeting - but if we creditors formally request one, and deposit suitable funds to cover the likely meeting expenditure, then one will be organised. Methinks this won't happen and I won't get an invite to a day-trip to Dover.

All in all very sad reading.

Meanwhile I am now having to look elsewhere for my 2009 ferry crossings to our holiday Gite.

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2 Comments:

  • I agree, sad reading.

    What would the purpose of a crditors meeting be anyway?

    By Anonymous martin, at January 08, 2009  

  • Thank you for you excellent overview of the Speedferries saga.
    Living in France, we've used them often over the past 4 years and much preferred them to the other ferry companies for their speed, convenience and BLTs on wholemeal (perfect for a 55 minute trip).
    We paid for our pre-booked voucher by debit card (still 5 trips outstanding) so I shouldn't think there's much hope of getting anything back. What's more I couldn't find our references in the creditors' list published by the administrators. Still, never say die. I imagine there must be many more like us out there...

    Tony, France

    PS I don't really want to be anonymous, but I found I couldn't post a comment as "Tony"...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at January 09, 2009  

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