High Court approves survival scheme for Sweeney companies

The High Court has approved a modified survival scheme for two companies in Galway businessman John Sweeney's Black Shore group.

Sweeney Oil Retail Ltd and Sweeney Oil Service Stations Ltd employ 37 people at service stations and associated retail units in Westport, Co Mayo, and at Clifden and Moycullen in Co Galway.

Anglo Irish Bank, the main secured creditor of SORL, had expressed concerns about the original survival proposals but this week withdrew its opposition to the scheme in light of the modified proposals. Under the scheme, Anglo will receive €1.85 million in full and final settlement of its €3.5 million debt.

Under the modified proposals, a company in which Mr Sweeney's son John is involved will provide a €1.5 million loan to SORL and a capital injection of some €500,000. The loan is repayable over 15 years which would provide breathing space for the companies to allow them trade profitably.

The court heard that Michael McAteer, who was appointed examiner to the companies earlier this year, believed the companies had a reasonable prospect of survival under the schemes advanced. The modified schemes also addressed concerns expressed by Anglo about leases for the service stations.

Lyndon MacCann SC, for Anglo, said the modifications addressed the bank's complaints, including concerns relating to its interests being prejudiced by the original survival scheme, and it was withdrawing its opposition. Anglo had voiced concerns relating to an original proposal for investment to be made in the companies via an interest free loan from a company involving Mr Sweeney's 21-year-old son.

Mr Justice Brian McGovern said it was always better when creditors could be facilitated in schemes of arrangement and he was happy to approve the schemes. The schemes will came into effect last Monday, bringing an end to the period of court protection for the companies.

Following the proceedings, Mr Sweeney, who was in court with members of his family, said he was very pleased with the outcome and was "looking forward to getting back to normal and getting on with running my business".

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