The son of the man who founded one of the Midlands’ biggest aerospace companies has launched a scathing attack on management after its shares were suspended.
Brierley Hill-based Hampson Industries called off the search for a buyer this week and requested suspension of its shares after admitting it was not in a position to publish annual accounts before the deadline.
Graham Hampson-Silk, son of founder Thomas Hampson-Silk, said the company had been in decline “for a number of years” and believed it was down to poor management.
The board of the 65-year-old firm admitted it did not expect any of the options currently open to it will result in any value remaining for its shareholders, in a statement issued on July 31.
Hampson, which makes parts used in the production of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, launched the search for a partner in February – at which time it was struggling with debts of £55 million – and has been unable to agree a deal.
Mr Hampson-Silk, who sold all of his shares in the company four years ago, said: “To leave shareholders with no value is a disgrace as also is the probability that many jobs are now also at risk – especially when you consider that the aerospace sector is relatively buoyant.
“When dad began Hampson, and indeed Hill and Smith, many years ago and built it into a thriving and growing business by the time he and mum were killed in 1980, he was achieving his great vision of creating shareholder value, growth and a great many jobs.
“It’s bittersweet therefore that my brother and I sold our shares a few years ago when we saw these problems developing and I remain very cross at the way that a once thriving business has been driven into the ground with no value whatsoever remaining.”
Hampson is seeking to suspend shares following discussions with its auditors and admitting the “status and nature of the remaining financing and strategic options available to the group” meant it was not in a position to publish its accounts before the deadline.
Shares in Hampson have fallen by more than 99 per cent in the last year, from 23.5p to 0.23p.
The group had appointed DC Advisory Partners and Sagent Advisors to conduct a sale process on February 14.
Despite that coming to an end, Hampson continues to seek a disposal of its US and non-US operations and has entered into “a period of exclusivity with a third party” in relation to a potential disposal of its American operations.
The company, which has been listed since 1966, has entered into covenant waivers with its lenders until September 28 to get more time to implement either the disposals or a financial restructuring of its operations.
Stephen Jones, head of the Birmingham office of investment firm Brewin Dolphin, said Hampson had been heading in the wrong direction since 2007, on the back of over-paying for takeover deals, and failing to run the acquired businesses sufficiently well.
He said: “Looking back with the benefit of hindsight it was a good strategy that was very poorly executed at Hampson.
“They are attacking the right markets in aerospace and in particular composite technology for aircraft, but the reality is the acquisitions were very poorly managed and they never got the debt under control, so it was only going one way.
He added: “Effectively the business is bust. The people who have lent money to the company are dictating to the management what they want them to do and the business is being broken up. That will be the end of Hampson.”
Hampson was established in 1947 by Thomas Hampson-Silk, who developed it into a mini-conglomerate encompassing a variety of engineering services, through to industrial cleaning and metal smelting.
Mr Hampson-Silk, who was a director of West Bromwich Albion FC where there is a Tom Silk building in his memory, and his wife Ruth were killed when their private plane crashed in France in the 1980s.
The latest developments at Hampson come after a tough period, which has seen share prices tumble.
The High Court last year found executives – including chief executive Kim Ward and financial director Howard Kimberley, who have also since left the business – guilty of selling a subsidiary without telling the buyer that it had just lost its biggest customer.
A judge described it as “truly extraordinary” behaviour after the firm “knew all too well” that Hampson Precision Automotive (HPA) had lost its largest client before a £3.1 million sale to Erlson Precision Holdings.
He gave the investors the option of returning HPA back to Hampson with a full refund and interest. In the end both parties agreed to the HPA remaining in Erlson ownership with Hampson paying a further a £1.5 million to Erlson as well as a contribution towards its legal costs.
The Post later revealed Mr Ward walked away from the firm with a pay-off of nearly £500,000.
That came after a challenging AGM for the company when Mr Kimberley was criticised for not taking up his entitlement to shares of around £11,000 when it was attempting to raise £60 million from shareholders.
Hampson Industries declined to comment when contacted by the Birmingham Post.