Vosper Thornycroft tempered news of good long-term prospects for its shipbuilding division with a warning of possible job losses early next year.
The marine engineering group said any further delays to a Ministry of Defence order for Royal Navy patrol vessels would force it to activate protective redundancy notices already issued to half its shipbuilding workforce — around 650 people.
Vosper needs the order to help fill a production gap before work begins on new Type 45 destroyers in 2002. It said it was concerned at ‘slippage’ in the MoD’s time-table, and that if it doesn’t get the contract by January it will have to consider laying off workers.
The company said negotiations with prime contractor BAE Systems over the first batch of Type 45s had also been slow, but it hopes to agree a deal by the end of the year.
Vosper’s interim results to September were otherwise optimistic, with a record order book, turnover 40% ahead of the same six months last year and pre-tax profits up more than £2m to £18.8m. The group added £200m to its order book following the purchase of Bombardier Defence Services UK in May.
Vosper hopes to announce further acquisitions to build its presence in the military and civil support service sectors. The Marine Products division benefited from new confidence in the offshore oil industry, with fresh orders from North Sea operators.
Chief executive Martin Jay said the figures showed its three core businesses were on course, but admitted its shipbuilding operation was entering a crucial few months.