Major customers of the bust Wembley arch builder Cleveland Bridge are sounding out industry rivals to taking over its contracts, as the fate of the historic firm hangs in the balance.
The Darlington-based specialist engineer, which was founded in 1877 and also built the Sydney Harbour Bridge, fell into administration 10 days ago after its Saudi Arabian owner, Al-Rushaid Group, withdrew its support.
Administrators FRP have been scrambling to find a buyer after the deadline for expressions of interest closed last week with a final decision on the future of the business due shortly.
Industry sources said that the UK's biggest structural steelwork firm, Severfield, was among those approached by Cleveland's major customers, including HS2, about taking over some contracts. Severfield declined to comment.
The company has already completed one contract on the high-speed rail project, supplying 1,130 tonnes of steel girders for a new bridge spanning the M42 near Solihull. An HS2 spokesman said: "We do not anticipate that the financial situation of Cleveland Bridge will affect HS2 schedules."
Sources said administrators had received around 20 expressions of interest in the firm's land manufacturing sites, and contracts although a buyer for the entire business has yet to emerge.
Administrators have raised cash to pay more than 220 staff in an attempt to make the business more attractive to potential buyers.
One steel industry insider said Cleveland would struggle to hang on to its skilled engineering staff unless a buyer emerged quickly: "The likely outcome is that the assets will be sold off. I suspect nobody will want to take over the contracts as they stand – they'll want to renegotiate them." The administrators plan to restart production to support current projects this week and have said they are "working quickly and diligently to assess the viability" of approaches for the businesses.
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