Building group Siac has said it intends to continue trading normally pending the outcome of a last-minute appeal that threatens to overturn a High Court-approved rescue plan for the business.
Mr Justice Peter Kelly last week gave the go-ahead to the plan under which a group of investors – including Siac's owners, the Feighery family – agreed to put €10.5 million into the group. The firm sought court protection from its l,255 creditors, which it owed close to €70 million, last October.
However, the Supreme Court heard yesterday that GDDKiA, the Polish roads authority, which Siac itself is suing for €120 million, has launched a last-minute appeal against Justice Kelly's decision, claiming its rights as a creditor have been unfairly prejudiced.
The Chief Justice said the court would hold a priority hearing next week of the appeal by the Polish agency, which claims it is owed some €70 million by Siac companies, against the High Court’s approval of the scheme.
The scheme, due to come into operation yesterday, has been deferred until Tuesday, when a three-judge Supreme Court will hear the appeal.
In a statement, Siac said “until this matter is resolved the company continues to trade normally with extended court protection”. It added that the group believed that, in fact, GDDKiA owed it a substantial amount of money.
Chief executive, Martin Maher, one of the rescue plan's backers, said the group hoped the matter could be concluded early next week.
Siac partly blamed a dispute with the roads agency that has ended up before the Polish courts for the financial problems that forced it into examinership last autumn.
The appeal is a setback for the group. It was due to exit High Court protection at the close of business on Monday, paving the way for new investors, including French-owned Colas Teoranta and private equity player Ducales, to back a revived, debt-free contracting business.
The Supreme Court heard yesterday that the last-minute challenge to approval for the survival scheme for the seven Siac companies involved placed them and the jobs of 219 employees “in peril”.
Bill Shipsey SC, for the GDDKiA, a state authority, said it was unfairly prejudiced by the scheme, which did not allow for any dividend for those Siac creditors making damages claims.
The authority has paid out to some Siac creditors. The company itself is also involved in substantial litigation in Poland, claiming some €120 million arising from its involvement in road projects there.
Urging an early hearing of the appeal, Bernard Dunleavy, for Siac, said it posed "enormous difficulties" and was coming "very late in the day". The authority had only become involved in the High Court proceedings last Tuesday, he added.
He said the rescue plan depends on the €10.5 million investment, but the investors had indicated the scheme must come into effect by next Tuesday, counsel said. If the Supreme Court reserved judgment on the appeal next Tuesday, that might be too late as Siac had no control over the investor, he added.
James Doherty, for the companies' examiner, Michael McAteer of Grant Thornton, said the uncertainty resulting from the appeal "causes all sorts of difficulties", including with ensuring bank creditors released securities and provided funding. He also supported an urgent hearing.