Holiday camp firm Pontin's goes into administration

Pontin's sign, Somerset Pontin's was set up in 1946

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Holiday camp company Pontin's has been placed into administration, the accountancy firm KPMG has said.

The company runs five parks, all of which will keep trading as normal, KPMG added. No redundancies have been made among Pontin's 850 staff.

In February 2009 Pontin's announced a £50m plan to redevelop its centres and create 2,000 jobs but eventually closed Blackpool Park, in Lancashire.

KPMG said it was optimistic the "iconic British brand" still had a future.

'Strong business'

Pontin's chairman Graham Parr said the business was profitable but had been a victim of the credit crunch and had gone into administration because its bank had withdrawn its support.

"The business is strong, it's going really well - we have 3,000 holidaymakers staying with us this weekend," he said.

Analysis

For many Pontin's is a symbol of how we used to holiday, but the rise of sangria in Spain meant the demise of shivering in British chalets.

So Pontin's went from 30 holiday camps to its current five, which attracts a lower economic demographic than rival "staycation" venues such as Centerparcs or Butlins.

But Pontin's being placed in administration is also a very high profile victim of the credit squeeze being placed by banks on small and medium enterprises.

Even though the firm's bank -Santander - did not push it into the arms of administrators KPMG, it did revalue downwards how much it thought it was worth. In doing so, the owners had to put up additional capital, which they did not have.

It's a story which thousands of medium sized companies will recognise instantly as they too struggle to keep their overdrafts and working capital at pre-2008 levels.

"But the bank has simply said it is not prepared to support our credit facilities any more. It's very annoying and the most nonsensical business situation I have ever been involved in."

Mr Parr, who has been involved with Pontin's on and off since the 1960s, said he and his partners fully intended to "get back in [to the business] and get it sorted."

Meanwhile, sources have told the BBC that it was the owners of Pontin's and not its bank which placed the company into administration.

BBC business correspondent Joe Lynam said it is understood that Santander had provided a year-long credit facility to Pontin's to allow it time to find a new buyer or further sources of money.

The company had suffered in a very competitive market place, with operators such as Butlins and Havens more successful in taking advantage of UK holidaymakers' desire for budget getaways during the downturn, he said.

Former Pontin's employee Warren Cooper, from Lowestoft, Suffolk, said he was not surprised the company had been placed into administration because there were "less and less customers" over the period he worked at the centre in Pakefield.

Mrs Janette Sellick, from East Ham, London, told the BBC she was worried because she had just paid for her family's Christmas holiday.

"I've been going every Christmas for 32 years and all my family goes too.

Pontin's chairman Graham Parr says the business is still sound but has been hit by the recession

"My sister's panicking. I am upset because the cheque has only just cleared from the bank for around £2,200," she said.

But the administrators say they are planning to find an "experienced leisure operator" to help them run the company until a buyer can be found and all reservations will be honoured.

Joint administrator Jane Moriarty said: "Pontin's is an iconic British brand which forms the backdrop to thousands of treasured family holiday memories.

"It has unfortunately struggled in the current economic environment but, with some support from new management, we are optimistic that it will be part of thousands of family memories in the years to come."

Pontin's, known for its Bluecoats entertainers, was established in 1946 and at its height owned more than 30 parks. It was founded by Fred Pontin, who was well ahead of his rivals when he spotted the trend for self-catering holiday villages.

It was bought by Oceans Park for £46m in 2008.

The five sites left are at Brean Sands, in Somerset; Camber Sands, in Sussex; Pakefield, in Suffolk; Prestatyn Sands, in Denbighshire; and Southport, in Merseyside.

The administrators have set up a helpline number for customers, which will be open from Monday 15 November. It is 0844 576 8481.

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