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Creditors agree to SA company takeover plan


The creditors of a 111-year-old Adelaide firm which lost $18 million before being placed into administration have agreed to a takeover plan to allow the business to survive.

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A Noble & Son Ltd entered into voluntary administration on June 15 when its directors decided the company was unable to repay its debts and appointed James McPherson and Austin Taylor of Adelaide-based Meertens Chartered Accountants to handle the insolvency.

Kilburn-based Nobles provides lifting and rigging equipment, technical services and engineering design for a range of heavy industries including mining, oil and gas, construction, shipping, manufacturing and defence.

At a second creditors meeting held yesterday a proposed bailout by E&A Limited was presented with creditors agreeing to the plan.

Nobles shareholders are being asked to hand over their shares, which the administrators say are worthless, to ensure the company’s survival under new ownership.

Under the deed of company arrangement (DOCA), E&A Limited will hold 95 per cent of the shares in Nobles while 5 per cent will be held by Nobles chief executive Rhys Goldsworthy.

E&A Limited managing director Stephen Young and company secretary Mark Vartuli will become the new Nobles directors.

About 100 staff will continue to work for the revamped Nobles but 55 will lose their jobs.

It is understood that while the majority of the 150 shareholders have so far agreed, the process is ongoing.

The administrators have said they will apply for court orders allowing them to sign over the shares of any shareholder unwilling to execute a share transfer.

The latest creditors’ report published last week shows the company reported net losses after tax for the five financial years to June 30 2021 of $18.3m.

In the same period, the financial accounts indicate that Nobles sold assets totalling $14.7m to help cover losses.

Over the five years, the company’s holding of stock reduced by $1.7m and the amount due to trade creditors increased by $1.2m.

The administrators said the company’s failure was due to reduced demand and disrupted supply chains as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, inadequate cashflow and loss of key staff.

Nobles owes at least 628 unsecured creditors a total of $5,249,827.38. They will now be paid between five and 33 cents in the dollar.

Secured creditors, including Meertens Chartered Accountants, Westpac and financier Scottish Pacific as well as all outstanding employee entitlements will be paid out in full.

Nobles owes the Australian Taxation Ofiice $1,547,910 for PAYG Tax ($1,204,801.81), outstanding superannuation contributions ($254,329) and Fringe Benefits Tax ($52,843).

It also owes $31,034 in state taxes to Revenue SA.

The company employed 155 full-time employees at 11 locations across Australia and owes them about $2.48 million in unpaid entitlements such as annual leave and long-service leave.

Keswick-based E&A’s companies employ more than 1400 people and have historically retained business names through subsidiaries.

Nobles was established in Adelaide in 1911.

Its revenues reached almost $48 million in FY2018 but have steadily fallen since and totalled $43.8 million in FY21.

The company has slid down the rankings in InDaily’s South Australian Business Index in recent years, falling from 70 in 2019 to 79 in 2020 and 93 in 2021.

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