We had funding on the way, 1st Fleet boss says

1st Fleet boss says funding was coming to keep company afloat, as details emerge of why it went into administration

We had funding on the way, 1st Fleet boss says
We had funding on the way: Brown
By Brad Gardner | May 3, 2012

A financial lifeline to keep the wheels turning at 1st Fleet was only weeks away, according to the owner, who has revealed details of why the firm went into voluntary administration.

Following the closure of his business at 11.55pm yesterday, Managing Director Stephen Brown has told ATN an agreement had been reached with a debt financier to provide funding.

1st Fleet went into voluntary administration last week and administrator deVries Tayeh late yesterday announced the business would cease trading.

"We had a new debtor funder in place to come in two or three weeks," he told ATN in a brief interview.

1st Fleet was previously using financial services firm Coface Australia, but the relationship turned sour when on April 24 it refused to provide any more funds unless Brown’s company went into administration.

"I had no choice. It was late Tuesday we found out we had a problem…They wouldn’t fund us unless we went into voluntary administration. So we were buggered, we didn’t have a choice," Brown says.

"We thought we were going to be funded normally. They checked us out…everything we did was accurate and there was no problem with it. And then they said no, simple as that. It was Tuesday 4.30[pm]."

The late notice that no funds would be made available fell on the day employees were to be paid, Brown says. Money came through two days later after confirmation deVries Tayeh had taken over the running of the business, and Brown says employees were paid on Friday, April 27.

"We expected to get our funding Monday and then Tuesday. And of course being a public holiday Wednesday [Anzac Day] we couldn’t do anything until Thursday. That’s when the administration came on," Brown says.

However, Brown today told the The Sydney Morning Herald Coface pulled its funding after one week, which culminated in 1st Fleet’s demise.

"If they [Coface] don’t fund them [the administrator] they haven’t got any f**kin’ money so they won’t operate," Brown says.

When asked why Coface refused to keep funding 1st Fleet, Brown replied: "How would I f**kin’ know? Ask them."

ATN has sought comment from Coface, but a representative is yet to respond.

Brown says the company fell behind on wages, but payments were due to come through on May 1 to ensure everyone was up to date.

A Sydney-based 1st Fleet truck driver, who declined to be named, blames the company’s woes on its failure to effectively hound clients over unpaid bills.

"They haven’t been following up their bills…Companies fold and they don’t get paid," he says.

"The company’s run badly, that’s what it boils down to. They should have followed up on bills, been more aggressive."

1st Fleet General Manager of National Operations Darren Garvin says clients were taking up to 90 days to pay.

In a statement, deVries Tayeh says 1st Fleet’s line of funding was not extended due to Brown’s inability to meet pre-arranged commitments. The statement does not detail the commitments, and ATN has attempted to contact the accountancy firm for further information.

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