Ace Winches deal gives Bal­moral Group stake

£10mil­lion agree­ment to ‘pro­vide sta­bil­ity’ amid down­turn

The Press and Journal (Inverness, Highlands, and Islands) - - BUSINESS - BY KEITH FIND­LAY

Two of the north-east’s best-known en­trepreneurs have struck a £10mil­lion deal giv­ing one of them a stake in the other’s busi­ness.

Self-made busi­ness­man Jim Milne, chair­man and manag­ing di­rec­tor at Aberdeen-based Bal­moral Group, is now chair­man of Ace Winches – based at Towie Bar­clay Works, near Tur­riff – af­ter Bal­moral’s ac­qui­si­tion of an undis­closed stake.

Ace’s founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive is Al­fie Cheyne, 53, who left school with few qual­i­fi­ca­tions but went on to de­velop his en­gi­neer­ing firm into a suc­cess­ful in­ter­na­tional busi­ness.

But the com­pany has had a grim time of it since the oil price plunge, suf­fer­ing pre-tax losses of more than £2mil­lion in 2014-15 and forced to axe jobs. It cur­rently em­ploys 150 peo­ple.

Ac­counts for 2015-16 have yet to be filed at Com­pa­nies House, with the deck ma­chin­ery spe­cial­ist hav­ing missed a dead­line of July 31.

Bal­moral, with more than 500 peo­ple on its pay­roll, has been pro­vid­ing en­gi­neered prod­ucts and ser­vices to the en­ergy, en­gi­neer­ing, marine, build-

“Work to­gether to max­imise global op­por­tu­ni­ties”

ing, poly­mer en­gi­neer­ing and pro­cess­ing sec­tors since 1980.

Its lat­est in­vest­ment will “pro­vide sta­bil­ity for Ace Winches” go­ing for­ward, Mr Milne said yes­ter­day.

He added: “It is our hope the work­force can be added to in the years ahead.”

Bal­moral’s fi­nance di­rec­tor, Bill Main, also joins the Ace board as a non-ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor.

The two firms aim to “work to­gether to max­imise global op­por­tu­ni­ties in the off­shore, re­new­ables and de­com­mis­sion­ing mar­kets”, Bal­moral said in a state­ment. Mr Milne added: “Ace Winches has built a very strong rep­u­ta­tion for pro­vid­ing world­class deck ma­chin­ery and lift­ing so­lu­tions and we recog­nise the po­ten­tial in the com­pany.”

Mr Cheyne said: “Both Ace Winches and Bal­moral Group have ex­ten­sive ex­pe­ri­ence of open­ing up new mar­kets.

“We see the re­new­ables and de­com­mis­sion­ing sec­tors, in par­tic­u­lar, of­fer­ing strong growth po­ten­tial both in the im­me­di­ate and longer term.”

Amul­ti­mil­lion-pound deal agreed by two of the north-east’s best known en­trepreneurs high­lights tra­di­tional strength and newly-ac­quired vul­ner­a­bil­ity in to­day’s oil and gas in­dus­try.

Bal­moral Group’s Jim Milne has in­vested £10mil­lion in Al­fie Cheyne’s Ace Winches in a mu­tu­ally-ben­e­fi­cial ar­range­ment which po­ten­tially opens new mar­kets glob­ally.

In re­turn, Mr Milne and his fi­nan­cial di­rec­tor will oc­cupy key places on the Ace board. Bal­moral’s fi­nan­cial mus­cle and group sta­bil­ity of­fers a life­line to Ace af­ter a tur­bu­lent pe­riod for the com­pany, which has lost jobs.

There are com­pelling rea­sons for the tie-up given the syn­ergy be­tween the com­pa­nies, but there are 650 other good rea­sons – that is the num­ber of jobs which de­pend on the fu­ture de­ci­sions of both men.

The oil and gas sup­ply chain is just as vul­ner­a­ble to the down­turn as the ma­jor North Sea play­ers in ex­plo­ration and pro­duc­tion.

Ace is a per­fect ex­am­ple: or­ders for man­u­fac­tured deck and lift­ing gear have shrunk along with the mar­ket forc­ing the firm into a rough patch, yet its ex­per­tise and world­wide re­spect for its prod­ucts is too im­por­tant to lose. Bal­moral’s mas­sive cash in­jec­tion and pooled re­sources means it should ride out the storm and evolve in readi­ness for a strong come­back as the mar­ket im­proves.

Both com­pa­nies have deep reser­voirs of tal­ent in the north-east, but are global brands with tremen­dous world­wide po­ten­tial to ex­ploit. The same can be said of the off­shore sec­tor in gen­eral over the next 30 years.

“High­lights tra­di­tional strength and newly­ac­quired vul­ner­a­bil­ity in oil and gas in­dus­try”

NEW START: From left, Va­lerie Cheyne, Al­fie Cheyne, Jim Milne and Bill Main are ex­pect­ing a brighter fu­ture for Ace Winches

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