We're all f**ked: Mannway fall sparks talk of doom

<font color=red><b>MANNWAY FALLOUT:</b></font> Collapse first of many; finance companies squeezing us out, 1st Fleet boss says

We're all f**ked: Mannway fall sparks talk of doom
We’re all f**ked: Mannway sparks talk of doom
By Michael House, Brad Gardner and Jason Whittaker | October 21, 2009

The collapse of Mannway will be the first of many transport operators to fall, one of the country’s largest carriers warns.

In an emotion-charged outburst to ATN, 1st Fleet Managing Director Stephen Brown says operators are hurting in the run up to the traditionally busy Christmas period as customers and financiers squeeze profit margins.

Brown expresses sympathy for Mannway’s plight but says his company is not in the market to buy any of the business – it doesn’t have the cash to do so.

"You have to have money to buy and we certainly don’t have any f**king money," he says in an expletive-laden tirade against transport customers and the banks.

Rumour is swirling around possible bidders for the national logistics provider, which is currently in the hands of receivers keen to offload the assets within weeks.

ATN understands K&S Freighters – which like Mannway works with large steel clients – has expressed interest and inspected facilities, though Managing Director Legh Winser declined to comment.

A Mannway sub-contractor who didn’t want to be named says K&S looked at a joint buy-out of the company with Linfox before receivers were brought in. A spokesperson for Linfox also refused to comment when contacted.

Receivership broker Ferrier Hogson has advertised the business on the market as a "going concern", with expressions of interest to close this Friday. ATN has been unable to speak to the firm this week.

Brown, whose $250 million company runs almost 1,000 trucks, bluntly says financiers are screwing over fleet owners.

"Finance companies are going to give us a lot more trouble about getting finance and it’s going to do some damage. As an industry we are getting f**ked up the arse," he tells ATN from the company’s Sydney base.

"There is risk you can’t get finance off banks; all the big boys of trucking finance have disappeared.

"Most private companies don’t have overdrafts with the banks anymore, including us.

"Eventually we [mid-sized operators] won’t buy trucks. Eventually we won’t be able to buy trucks."

Brown confirms the collapse of the steel market, which Mannway partly blames for its financial ruin. 1st Fleet works for Bluescope and has seen significant falls in steel volume.

Everyone is hurting, Brown says: "Christmas in our game is the strongest and...right now people are not making f**king money."

He predicts more companies will fall.

"I feel sorry for people because we will absolutely be seeing more companies go in the next year," he says.

"I just hope we aren’t one of them."

YOUR SAY: Just how tough is the transport business right now? Will the economic downturn and credit squeeze force more operators out of business? Send us your off-the-record feedback via e-mail, leave your comments below or join the Twitter conversation by following @atnmag.

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