Friede Goldman Halter Selling Halter Marine

Louisiana-based Bollinger Shipyards plans to expand into Mississippi with the purchase of Halter Marine for $48 million.

The deal, announced Wednesday, is subject to the approval of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Gulfport-based Friede Goldman Halter, which owns Halter Marine, has been in bankruptcy since April 2001 and is selling parts of the company as it restructures. FGH said it expects the Bollinger deal to close in late July or early August.

"The sale is a major step in providing a return to the creditors,'' said FGH president and chief executive Jack Stone.

The acquisition involves shipyards in Louisiana and Mississippi and 800 employees, Bollinger said. Donald "Boysie'' Bollinger, chairman and CEO of the privately held company, said Bollinger would retain "substantially all'' of Halter's workers.

"Our goal is to make the transition for our new employees and customers as seamless as possible,'' he said.

Bollinger operates 14 shipyards in Louisiana and Texas. It builds, repairs and converts small to medium-size vessels for the energy, commercial and government marine markets. The Lockport-based company, which has 2,500 employees, declined to disclose revenue or sales figures.

Halter Marine is one of FGH's three business units. FGH also is selling its design and engineering group.

Spokesman Larry Walker said the company will retain its division that builds and repairs large drilling and production rigs for the offshore energy industry. In particular, FGH will focus on upgrading and converting such rigs, Walker said.

"New construction is still in the business plan, but we're going to be very selective in the customers we build for,'' he said.

The company's recent financial problems centered on four deep-water rigs that were mired in contract disputes between Friede and two customers. As of Feb. 28, FGH's offshore division had $9.7 million in new construction contracts and $30.9 million worth of conversion and repair work, Walker said.

Halter Marine has some $78 million in business on the books, he said. After the sale, FGH will have 200 technical and administrative employees and another 1,100 in its offshore division.

FGH submitted its reorganization plan to the courts in March. Walker said the company expects a ruling June 19.

"They could approve it, reject it or ask us to modify it,'' he said.

Earlier this month, J.L. Holloway stepped down as chairman of the board at Friede Goldman Halter, cutting ties with the company he helped build over 20 years. A new chairman has been elected, but the company declined to name the person Wednesday.

Holloway's departure came a month after FGH accepted the resignation of CEO and president John Alford, who succeeded Holloway two years ago. Stone, who had been advising Friede's board on restructuring matters, replaced Alford.