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'Business as usual' at Cleveland , says Rogan

Cleveland boss says Saudi backer is not about to leave steel erector floundering

THE BOSS of Cleveland Bridge is confident the firm will be able to survive last week's High Court defeat by Multiplex.

The Darlington contractor faces having to shell out up to £20 million in compensation to the Aussie builder after a judge found the firm had illegally quit the Wembley Stadium project when it walked off the job in August 2004.

The four-week trial heard that the company, which employs 350 people, is heavily dependent on financial support from its main shareholder, Saudi firm Al Rushaid Investment, owned by Sheikh Abdullah.

In its latest report and accounts for the year ending December 2004, the firm posted a pre-tax profit of £1.1 million on turnover of £61 million, down from the previous year's £100 million. The firm is due to file its 2005 accounts at Companies House by October 31.

A source at electrical and engineering union Amicus said: 'There are lots of rumours going round among the steel erectors and they are worried about Cleveland's future following its kicking in the High Court.'

But CBUK managing director Brian Rogan said: 'We have every intention of having an ongoing business. The result does not affect that one way or the other.'

CBUK has been told to hand over an initial £700,000 by next Tuesday.

The court heard of the increasingly acrimonious relationship between the sheikh and Multiplex founder John Roberts, who died just days after the verdict was announced, aged 72.

Speaking before news of his death, Mr Rogan said there was no question that the Sheikh would withdraw his financial support in order to not pay Multiplex compensation. He added: 'You don't dump the business just because you have a personal disagreement with someone else.'

CBUK has until June 27 to petition the Court of Appeal to appeal Mr Justice Jackson's decision after the company's lawyers failed in their attempt to get the judge to grant leave to appeal.

Mr Rogan added: 'We will be definitely seeking leave to appeal. The papers are being prepared at the moment.'