Business leaders have revealed their shock after a luxury yacht-maker collapsed causing the loss of 234 Midland jobs.
The roles were axed at Kidderminster-based Sealine International after administrators from Baker Tilly Restructuring and Recovery were appointed this week.
It is understood about 50 jobs have been kept on the payroll, with the rest handed redundancy notices.
Mike Ashton, chief executive of Herefordshire and Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce, said the collapse came out of the blue, as little as six weeks ago brighter times were predicted for Sealine.
He said: “It is both surprising and disappointing news that Sealine has gone into administration with the loss of a significant number of jobs in the town.
“We sympathise with the employees that have been made redundant and will provide them with any assistance as they require it.
“We had had an excellent meeting with the senior managers just six weeks ago and although orders were low they expected an upturn in spring/summer.
“Hopefully, a quick sale might save the industry in Kidderminster.”
The administrator said it was assisting the affected staff to make claims against the Government redundancy fund and was in the process of finding a buyer for all or part of the business.
Graham Bushby and Guy Mander of Baker Tilly Restructuring and Recovery were called into Sealine International earlier this week.
Mr Bushby said the administrators would be working to “maximise recoveries for the company’s creditors”, which includes the sale of plant and recovery of monies owed to the business.
Sealine made a £4 million pre-tax loss on a turnover of about £33 million according to its latest accounts, for 2011, and has been loss-making for a number of years.
The company makes boats that sell for up to £1million. The latest blow comes after 37 management, clerical and support jobs were axed in February last year.
It was established in 1972 by Tom Murrant and enjoyed strong growth throughout the 1990s.
Sealine was bought for an undisclosed sum in August 2011 by US private equity investors Oxford Investment Group from giant leisure products company Brunswick.
But trading conditions have remained difficult, with Sealine’s latest filed accounts showing a 9.5 per cent decline in turnover from 2010 to 2011.
Earlier in April, Sealine appointed KPMG to handle a search for new investment, which was widely interpreted as a search for a buyer.
Despite early optimism that a company or group of individuals would make an offer for the yard, none was forthcoming.