Titanic shipbuilder halts trading amid row with auditors

Prince Charles Visit to Harland & Wolff Shipyard Belfast by David Cordner Photography King Charles III, the former Prince of Wales, paid a visit to Harland & Wolff in 2021. Image courtesy of David Cordner.

Belfast-based shipbuilder Harland & Wolff has temporarily suspended trading of its shares due to delays in filing audited accounts.

The Aim-listed firm, known for building White Star Line’s ocean liners, including the Titanic, announced on Monday (1 July 2024) that trading would cease immediately because it could not submit its accounts on time. The accounts are expected to be published in the week starting 8 July, at which point share trading will resume.

In June, Harland & Wolff faced uncertainty when reports surfaced that the UK government was withholding approval for a £200m loan guarantee promised in December to support its finances.

In an update issued on Monday, the firm says that the “multi-year and complex nature” of some contracts had led to “extensive discussions” with auditors on how to record revenue throughout build programmes.

The firm revealed this issue is particularly relevant to the seven-year contract with Spanish shipbuilder Navantia, expected to generate £750m for Harland & Wolff through the construction of fleet support ships for the Royal Navy.

The company states: “The assessment of the split in revenues between current year’s revenues and deferred revenues has caused a delay to the audit process and hence the publication of the company’s annual report and audited financial statements.”

'Isle of Inishmore' and 'Jonathan Swift' in Belfast. The Irish Ferries operated vessels 'Jonathan Swift' and 'Isle of Inishmore', seen here in dry dock at Harland and Wolff in Belfast.
The Irish Ferries-operated vessels Jonathan Swift and Isle of Inishmore in dry dock at Harland and& Wolff in Belfast. Image courtesy of Wikicommons/Ross.

Despite the delay, Harland & Wolff released unaudited accounts, showing an operating loss of £24.7m for the 12 months ending 31 December 2023, an improvement from the £58.5m loss the previous year. Revenues rose from £27.8m in 2022 to £86.9m this year.

In May, the GMB union urged the chancellor to ensure the £200m loan guarantee for Harland & Wolff to protect jobs. This appeal followed reports of the government potentially withdrawing support for the loan facility, which is crucial for Harland & Wolff to repay expensive debts to Riverstone Credit Partners, a US investor.

In its update, the company notes ongoing efforts regarding the loan facility, anticipating a decision post-general election (on 4 July 2024). It warned: “Should there be any material delays to securing the facility post the general election, the company’s ability to execute new and large contracts would be adversely affected.”

Harland & Wolff also owns ports across England and Scotland, including Methil on the Firth of Forth, Appledore in North Devon, and Arnish Point on the Isle of Lewis.

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This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.

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