THERE have been more than 30 ‘expressions of interest’ to acquire the group of companies of which Watchet Marina is a member.

The figure was revealed this week in a progress report from administrators who have taken over the eight insolvent businesses.

Watchet is the only one of five Marine and Property Group (MPG) marinas which remains out of administration.

The company’s sole director, Switzerland-based Christopher Odling-Smee, is currently negotiating for a 200-year lease with Somerset Council.

The rest of the companies went into administration last June.

In the latest report on Cardiff Marine Services (CMS), the company which serviced the rest of the group, joint administrators Damian Webb and Christopher Lewis said that it was originally hoped to sell the businesses within four to six months but that had now been extended to 12 to 18 months in the hope of an improved performance.

The report also claimed that staff would lose about six months’ worth of pension payments because of arrears, staff were personally having to pay for essential items due to credit problems, and £8 million owed to the group by another of Mr Odling-Smee’s companies was unlikely to be recovered.

The administrators said: “We are aware there is £8 million owed to the group by the Bayscape group of companies.”

But, they said the main Bayscape business was in compulsory liquidation, making the rest of the group unsecured creditors.

“Due to this, it is highly unlikely that these funds will be recovered, but the administrators will continue to investigate the matter,” they said.

The administrators also reported that Cardiff Marine Services had historically been the main operating entity within the Marine Group but this was complicated in March, 2023, when HSBC froze the company’s bank account due to the advertisement of a winding-up petition from HMRC.

They said: “The director circumvented this by using the holding company’s Marine and Property Group bank account as a ‘de facto treasury’ for the group.

“The majority of income came through accounts set up in MPG’s name but payments were then processed by MPG with this income.”

The administrators said they stopped all marina dredging as it did not generate cash for the company.

Two dredging contracts had been completed, making a total profit of £26,144.

There was also an ongoing Bristol Channel dredging project which was expected to make a profit of about £94,000.

They said: “The total direct expenditure for these dredging contracts is over £61,000.

“Given the contractual work, it is likely that the dredging department has been loss-making since the appointment of the administrators due to the upfront costs associated with it.”

The report added that before going into administration, CMS had exhausted a number of lines of credit with local and trusted suppliers and the administrators were unable to renegotiate any arrangements.

“To counteract this, members of staff have purchased supplies when they have been urgently required and to date have been reimbursed over £5,000,” they said.

The administrators have now re-entered discussions with key suppliers to re-open lines of credit.

A breakdown of CMS’s profit and loss account showed that over the past six months it made a loss of £91,662 caused largely by capital requirements for engineering, servicing, and dredging, plus a fall in winter mooring fees.

Financiers TAB London Ltd has continued to provide funding as a senior secured lender on the basis that continued trading will improve the group’s assets.

“To date, TAB have provided funding of £63,618 to assist the company in the necessary repair works and initial working capital requirements for a dredging contract in Bristol,” said the administrators.

“The administrators continue to liaise with TAB regarding any future funding which may be required.”

Staff changes over the past six months involved 20 workers being transferred to other companies in the group, including Watchet Marina, plus 20 redundancies.

The report pledged: “The administrators will continue to trade the business, to explore the possibility of selling the company and/or its business and assets on the terms they consider to be most beneficial to creditors of the company.”

Mr Odling-Smee has declined to make any comment to the Free Press.