Wednesday 20 February 2019

Target Express boss guaranteed €16m of loans

Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Firm was hopelessly insolvent, say liquidators

TARGET Express boss Seamus McBrien, whose company went into liquidation this week with 390 job losses, gave personal guarantees against €16m of bank loans, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

Meanwhile, he is continuing to blame the Revenue Commissioners for the collapse of his company, despite liquidators finding that the freight firm was "hopelessly insolvent".

Speaking to this newspaper, Mr McBrien said: "Why has nobody gone down and talked to the woman in the Revenue in Limerick who caused all this hassle, the person who made the decision?

"Why are they not being interviewed? Why are you picking on me all the time? I've done nothing wrong."

Company accounts for Mr McBrien's holding company, Farnley Investments, show the Fermanagh man used his life-assurance policy as a security against loans used to expand his business in recent years.

A note in Farnley Investment's 2010 annual accounts state that bank loans were secured "by a charge over the group's premises, the personal guarantees of Mr Seamus McBrien, assignment of life polices in the name of Seamus McBrien, assignment of all rental incomes generated from properties".

Company accounts for all Mr McBrien's businesses show that his firms have a number of unsatisfied loans from AIB, Anglo Irish Bank and Bank of Scotland.

Farnley Investments' most recent accounts also show that Mr McBrien's company owns 14 premises in Ireland and a further six in the UK. It had been leasing the UK properties to City Link, Target Express's British partner. However, the UK firm merged depots in the last year and ended a number of the rental deals.

Target Express also closed five depots in the Republic and Northern Ireland in the last year and sought almost 50 redundancies in the last two months.

The troubled freight boss hit the headlines this week when he went on a media offensive against the Revenue Commissioner following the closure of his once-successful transport business.

Not unlike his close friend and neighbour, the troubled tycoon Sean Quinn, Mr McBrien looked to blame everybody but himself.

But unlike Mr Quinn, Mr McBrien's ire was focused on the taxman, rather than the former Anglo Irish Bank.

He claimed that he had paid the Revenue Commissioners €1m in the last six weeks, yet they froze his bank account over a €500,000 debt which he said he could have paid by the end of October.

The transport company chief also blasted the Government for not intervening to save jobs at his haulage firm and said he had been unfairly treated because he was from Northern Ireland.

"If I was a US company, they would have been crawling all over me yesterday, offering me grants to stay," he said.

Initially, there was widespread sympathy for the haulage boss from both the public and his workers, who staged sit-in protests in Target Express depots across the country.

However, by Wednesday a receiver had been appointed to the company and the mood among the workers changed as they began questioning the company's finances.

In a press release, staff said they believed that "management have been misrepresenting the situation in this regard in the media".

The following day, court-appointed liquidators Grant Thornton said the company was "hopelessly insolvent" and also revealed that Mr McBrien's freight firm owed €600,000 in workers' social insurance contributions and PAYE to Revenue.

On Friday, transport company Masterlink Logistics reached an agreement with the liquidators to buy Target Express but said it could not guarantee how many jobs would be saved.

Sunday Independent

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