London trading of shares in Hampson was suspended earlier this week when the debt-burdened supplier of composite assembly tools to Airbus, Boeing, Bombardier, Gulfstream, Lockheed Martin and other airframers declared the end of attempts to sell the company and that it was unable to file its accounts for its year to end-March.

However, though its share price stood at less than a penny - down from an all-time high in excess of 200p ($3.13) in January 2008 - Hampson remains a going concern and insists it is still on track to fulfil a $53 million contract to supply Boeing with lightweight mandrel tools for carbonfibre lay-up for a "major commercial aerospace programme". This is likely to be the -9 variant of the 787.

Payment for that contract was originally expected within a year of its September 2010 signing, but owing to "issuesidentified during the testing and customer approval process" will not be fully realised until as late as March 2013.

Hampson complained in 2010-11 that profitability was being hit by "a consistent pattern of changes in customer scheduling requirements which resulted in higher subcontract and overtime costs being incurred".

Debt servicing and goodwill impairments have wiped out trading profits. The company lost £31 million before taxes in its year to end-March 2011 and the same again in its half-year to end-September 2011.

Trouble began in 2008 with a $253 million acquisition of Michigan-based tooling makers Odyssey and Global Tooling. The move looked like a savvy bid to satisfy the growing demand for composite airframe tools until the global financial crisis and various aircraft programme delays left Hampson out on a financial limb.

Lenders have been helpful, but banks have not been willing to refinance the debt, which stands at some £55 million net, exacerbated by short-term borrowing to support the delayed Boeing tooling contract.

Hampson put itself up for sale in February but last week said there was no offer being discussed, though there were preliminary talks with a "third party" about the sale of the US operations. Shareholders will be left with nothing, according to Hampson.

Source: Flight International