Arena Shrugs Off ES Problems

Arena Group appears to be shrugging off the financial problems caused by its joint-venture partner ES Group going into administration and has opened a new base in Malaysia.

The event infrastructure specialist, one of the 350-plus creditors collectively owed more than £8 million by ES, says it’s determined to recover from the disaster that sent shockwaves through the UK production industry.

It’s marked its Asian expansion by providing the double-decker hospitality structure that overlooked the 18th hole at the 2011 Ballantine golf championship held at South Korea’s Blackstone Golf Club’s Incheon course in April.

It also did the fixtures and fittings for the temporary structure that lends itself to a wide range of music and sports events.

“The logical step for the business, in response to client’s requests and business trends, was to offer Arena’s services on an international basis,” explained chief exec Greg Lawless. “We began with growth into European countries, before forging a successful partnership in Dubai. This has expanded the range of leading international brands and iconic sporting events that have come to entrust the Arena Group to deliver their live events brand experience.”

Apart from losing more than £250,000 over the collapse of ES, Arena also lost the joint venture it set up with ES to secure Commonwealth and Olympic Games contracts.

What’s happened to that is a source of some conjecture. Since April 14, six weeks after it was said to have folded, information supplied to Companies House says it’s only changed its name from ES Group JV Ltd to ES Global Overlay Ltd.

There’s no mention of any change in the makeup of the board but Lawless says Grahame Muir, David Seaman and John O’Neill – the directors who came from Arena’s side – tendered their resignations weeks ago.

ES initially looked to have hit problems a couple of weeks after being awarded a £25 million contract to build a water polo arena at London’s 2012 Olympic Park.

At a board meeting Jan. 24 it became clear the firm would soon be in no position to pay its debts, although it’s subsequently been revealed that ES was already receiving advice direct from corporate restructuring experts Begbies Traynor and had been canvassing for potential buyers for several weeks.

The full truth emerged a month later when ES went into administration and was sold in two parts within 24 hours, although the £1.86 million garnered from the sale was barely enough for administrator Steve Holgate of PFK to see off preferential creditors such as banker HSBC and the companies that had supplied the finance for the firm’s plant and assets.

UK-based Transam took the trucking side of the business for £700,000, while a consortium headed by Al Laith, a multi-faceted production and supply firm based in the United Arab Emirates, took the staging and event production for £1.16 million.

Among the biggest losers in the crash are said to be Rock It Cargo, which had a downside of more than £850,000, Tockwith-based Stage One Creative Industries (£751,596), electronics support supplier Production Science Ltd. (£356,942), Dessicant Dryair (£437,190) and electrical design and installation services firm Alpha (Bristol) Ltd., which dropped £304,456.

German architectural cladding specialist Vector Foiltec topped the list with losses of more than £1 million, while seven UK companies lost more than £100,000 – with one down as much as £236,980 – and a further 41 lost between £20,000 and £80,000.