Ace Winches deal gives Balmoral Group stake
£10million agreement to ‘provide stability’ amid downturn
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