Bianco’s Business Closure

South Australia’s Bianco construction group was placed into receivership in early July under heavy debts totalling $60 million. Administrators Ferrier Hodgson later announced that Bianco Structural Steel would be closed, with 50 staff made redundant. The closure announcement came on the same day that advertisements appeared for Bianco Construction claiming the company had more than $3 million in EBIT, “extensive stockholding” and a number of leased premises.

Ferrier Hodgson partner David Kidman said the Bianco Structural Steel division was deemed unviable after the business had lost more than $16 million since moving into its new Gepps Cross premises in 2007, which owner Nick Bianco had borrowed $50 million to build. The premises failed to generate returns for the company after the building’s value dropped significantly during the global financial crisis.

“Since our appointment, it has become clear that the amount of work on hand at BSS was far lower than we expected. If we don’t shut down BSS, it will drag down the profitable Bianco Construction Supplies with it,” Kidman said. Other divisions of the firm, such as Bianco Hire, Bianco Reinforcing and Bianco Precast, weren’t affected by the appointment of administrators.

“We have launched the sale program for Bianco Construction Supplies and there is a significant level of interest in that business,” Kidman said. “We expect to be in a position to announce some positive news about the future of the Construction Supplies business over the next couple of months.

The administrators say the sale of the supplies business will consist of plant and equipment, more than 150 sales and support staff and leases for several properties in Newton. It estimates annual revenue at $60 million and EBIT of $3.2 million.

Bianco migrated with his family from Italy to South Australia in the 1950s and started the business in the 1970s. He became well-known for his generous gifts to various charities and to his staff, with many receiving lavish Christmas bonuses amounting to several months’ wages. Receivers Ferrier Hodgson did not want to comment on workers’ entitlements, saying it was premature to do so. If jobs did go, however, workers rank before the banks in this case in terms of having their entitlements paid. In the worst-case scenario, if there was not enough money to cover entitlements after the businesses were liquidated, the Federal Government’s General Employee Entitlements and Redundancy Scheme would contribute towards entitlements such as unpaid wages, annual and long service leave.

“I don’t regret anything I’ve done at the moment, except for if things don’t work out for my staff. That’s the only thing I am very upset about,” Bianco said. “And my customers.”