Mivan: A long journey from Antrim to Done of the Rock

Antrim construction firm Mivan has gone into administration.
Antrim construction firm Mivan has gone into administration.

In a Province gripped by the Troubles and economic decline, the success of a small handful of firms such as Mivan quite literally brought some much-needed optimism to news bulletins in the 1980s and onwards.

From the palaces of Saddam Hussein – mentioned less often these days – to the refurbishment of the iconic Dome of the Rock, the successes of Mivan were reported with the same pride as sports achievements.

More importantly the firm set an example to others of what could be achieved by a local firm prepared to look outside Northern Ireland and take their chances.

It was that attitude that has seen the firm rack up contract after contract and award after award as recently as last summer.

In turn the firm has helped create a centre of excellence within the Province that has spawned a host of skilled and confident land and marine fit-out firms which continue to compete nationally and internationally.

However, that track record does not appear to have been enough to help Mivan overcome a number of critical setbacks in the wake of the credit crunch and the recession.

A number of significant losses have forced the business onto the back foot as it struggled to overcome the failure of European projects.

One, a joint venture under the name of Rathenraw Ltd, intended to create public housing in Romania, was reported as insolvent in 2010.

Another joint venture intended to build a number of shopping centres also failed to reach completion and it is understood that the firm lost in the region of £50 million between 2009 and 2011.

Given the apparent failure of discussions with the Lagan Group over merger possibilities it seems reasonable that, sadly, the future for Mivan – like Patton before – is not bright.

It is doubly unfortunate that this should come at the start of a year when the construction sector within the Province is beginning to look to growth as Construction Employers’ Federation chief John Armstrong was swift to point out yesterday.

“Mivan had an excellent reputation and was renowned for its export success over many years,” he said.

“Many local companies have followed Mivan’s lead in this regard and now over 70 per cent of the turnover of our top 20 construction companies is generated outside Northern Ireland.

“Had it not been for the industry’s remarkable success in winning work outside Northern Ireland, many more local people would have been out of work in recent years.”