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Factory extension caught in limbo

PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

Contractors hoping Ebert receiver can save their bacon

PAM GRAHAM
[email protected]

The $10 million extension of Carterton’s Premier Beehive factory is in limbo after the collapse of Ebert Construction.

Ebert, based in Wellington, was placed in receivership on Tuesday night, leaving the future of what is believed to be Wairarapa’s biggest commercial building project up in the air.

The site was locked down by receivers Pricewaterhouse Coopers.

Premier Beehive managing director Dene McKay said the situation was disappointing as the building work Ebert was doing was 75 to 80 per cent complete.

“We don’t know what is going on but hopefully we will have some clarity by the end of the week,” he said.

Rob Summers, the owner of Waterwise Wairarapa, was one of the few local contractors to win work on the project and got a call at 5.30am informing him of the receivership and lockdown of the site on Moreton Rd.

It came as a blow for him in the second year of owning the business.

“It’s pretty gutting – all my staff have worked really hard and we acquired new staff to go on that job,” he said.

Receiver John Fisk said his team was working hard to establish the viability of each of Ebert’s contracts.

Aerial view of the Premier Beehive factory in Carterton. PHOTO/FILE

“We will hopefully come to a conclusion shortly, in terms of whether we will be able to continue the contract or whether we will have to step away from it and let someone else take it over,” he said.

The decision depended on whether the costs to complete were less than what could be recovered in the receivership process.

“Each situation needs to be looked at depending on the circumstances,” Fisk said.

If the receiver decided not to complete the work, Premier Beehive would have to get someone else in to do it.

The factory is categorised as an unsecured creditor in terms of trying to recover any losses on the contract.

Secured creditors rank ahead of unsecured creditors, but Fisk could not say how much in each dollar either were likely to get so early in the receivership process.

He has estimated a total of $40 million of losses in the receivership.

Receivers let Summers and other contractors on to the site on Wednesday to get their tools, but they were not allowed to take any materials.

“Apparently, if you have invoiced them, it is their property,” Summers said.

That applied even if the invoice had not been paid.

Summers said there was a rush in the morning when contractors turned up to get their tools and the process carried on into the evening.

Everything the contractors took was photographed.

He said his financial exposure to the receivership was “quite bad” but he didn’t want to disclose how much.

He had taken on extra staff after winning the contract to do plumbing and drainage work on the project.

As he also did work for Premier Beehive itself, he was hopeful he would be able to continue to provide employment for his staff.

“We don’t know what is really going to happen. I’m just waiting in line to see what’s going on,” he said.

“I feel it [the project] has to be finished.”

The project was an extension to be used for producing new sausages and bacon, new offices and a washroom for staff.

Fisk has said receivers were called in because the board of directors got new information about poorly-performing contracts in Auckland and passed a resolution to request the bank to appoint receivers.

Ebert had several well-performing contracts, but the receiver hasn’t disclosed if Premier Beehive was one of these.

The factory extension was due to be completed in November.

Premier Beehive is one of the largest employers in Wairarapa and produces a third of the country’s bacon at its factory on Moreton Rd.

The company started life as a pig processor in 1991 and has changed hands several times since the Reid family sold.

It is now owned by JBS, a Brazilian company that is the largest meat processing company in the world.

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