The origin for this piece was an article in last week’s Cambrian News. After a front-page intro the story was set out inside. And here it is.
The same story appeared a couple of days earlier in NorthWalesLive and, presumably, the Daily Post.
This link to Google maps shows the land in question on the Penamser Industrial Estate in Porthmadog. Overlooked by Travis Perkins and Travelodge.
Local politicians claim that the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’ has some kind of “exclusivity agreement” with a company that has resulted in this land gathering weeds while local businesses want to set up or expand on that land.
The company in question is Morbaine Ltd, of Widnes, in Cheshire.
Here’s a contribution to the dispute from local Plaid councillor Nia Jeffreys.
“It makes no sense at all that public money is being spent on this site whilst the Welsh Government is standing in the way of job creation in Porthmadog. They must seriously reconsider their decision and their priorities for the sake of our local economy.”
For God’s sake, woman, don’t use words like “economy” when dealing with the ‘Welsh Government’! Language like that could have Drakeford falling off his bike.
WHAT CAN COMPANIES HOUSE TELL US?
When we turn to the Charges tab we see loans and other arrangements related to property and land in Wales, Scotland, and England. With 48 of them outstanding. There were a number of mentions for Caernarfon Road, Bangor.
This would appear to be the area of retail units on the edge of the city which, coming from Caernarfon, start with the Tesco Extra store on the roundabout. This must have made Morbaine a few quid.
The financials certainly seem to have perked up last year, with accounts to 30 June 2022 showing a profit of £727,251 against a loss of £1,168,055 the previous year.
I mentioned the new directors, and this may link with “significant control” passing in March from John Finlan who, if he’s still alive, is 98, to Morbaine Properties Ltd.
So what’s the story with Morbaine Properties? Well, there are 13 outstanding charges. With the latest accounts showing a gross profit of £5.24m on a turnover of just £6.87m. Which is quite impressive.
The entry for significant control shows John William Finlan who, at 31 years old, I take to be the grandson of the old man I just mentioned. Yet this entry might be misleading.
And I say that because when we turn to a document filed on June 22 showing the distribution of shares, we see that John William Finlan is a minority shareholder. And that’s been the case for some years.
Finlan owns just 60 out of a total of 200 shares. With 100 being held by “Helen Woods Equiom (Isle of Man) Ltd”, and another 30 by “Equiom (Isle of Man) Ltd Helen Woods”. (To make sense of the entry note that some listings are for 0 shares.)
Here’s Helen Woods’ Linkedin profile. You’ll see that she’s, “Tax Director at Hotchkiss Associates Limited Isle of Man”.
So through holding most of the shares, Helen Woods / Equiom of the Isle of Man, now owns the company that has some kind of deal with the ‘Welsh Government’.
Or so it might appear at first sight.
WHO OWNS WHO?
As you’d expect, Equiom is quite a big outfit. I get the impression it provides legal and other services for even bigger fish. One of which seems to have swallowed it.
For an online search revealed that Equiom was taken over last year by Alcentra. Here’s the Alcentra website. With offices in London, New York, Boston, Tokyo and Hong Kong Alcentra has “Total Assets Under Management” of $34bn.
But as the website tells us, Alcentra itself is now owned by somebody else:
Alcentra is a wholly owned subsidiary of Franklin Resources, Inc. (Franklin Templeton) which is one of the world’s largest independent investment managers with $1.4 trillion in total assets under management
And this was another takeover achieved last year.
From what I can see, Franklin is still independent and owned by the Johnson brothers of Silicon Valley. And Franklin Resources are certainly big fish, listed at number 20 in this, “World’s Top Asset Management Firms”. A list headed of course by BlackRock and Vanguard.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE LAND?
Tracking something on the Land Registry website can be straightforward if you have an address or a title number. But in this case it’s just land in the vicinity of Penamser Road.
Still, I tried my luck. And the site is easy enough to locate, it’s in the centre of this OS Land Registry map.
This helped me track down, “Land lying on the North side of Penamser Road, Porthmadog (Freehold)”. Title number WA612872. And here is the 30-page title document, but unfortunately there was no plan available.
We see that the owners of the land are, “The National Assembly for Wales”.
A search of the title document turned up two mentions of “Morbaine”.
The first, on page 24, refers to an “option to purchase the land edged mauve”. But without a plan we can’t locate this land. This entry is dated November 26, 1991. It was an agreement between Morbaine and the Welsh Development Agency (WDA).
The second entry is on the penultimate page and it reads:
That title number, CYM402906 refers to land now occupied by Travelodge. It was sold by Morbaine Ltd to Sunville Properties Ltd. Here’s the title document, scroll down for the plan.
From which I conclude that the original title WA612872 covered the land sold off for the Travelodge plus the land now being discussed.
Which means that a week or so before selling it on Morbaine bought the land from “The Welsh Ministers”. And without doing anything, sold the land to Sunville at a profit.
Nice work if you can get get it.
AND FINALLY . . .
The problem with the land at Penamser Road is that Morbaine has an option to buy. But claims it can’t do so until the ‘Welsh Government’ carries out “remedial works“.
Which will of course be paid for from the public purse.
“The current position is that we are still waiting for the Welsh Government to deal with various issues on the site as part of the land transfer . . . Following these works we hope to then be able to progress expressions of interest received in the site from retail operators. The site has an extant retail consent.
“From our position it has been extremely frustrating that addressing these remedial works has taken so long.”
It has always been the case that too much of the money made in Wales leaves Wales. The Travelodge money-for-old-rope deal suggests Morbaine is just another company making money out of Wales while contributing nothing.
Devolution has made things worse, with successive administrations wanting to single-handedly save the planet, fight trans genocide, confront the fascist hordes . . . which in practice means throwing money at global corporations, unhinged narcissists, and grant-grab grifters.
I think Morbaine – or whoever now owns the company – should be told that 32 years is long enough to sit on an option to buy. And so the ‘Welsh Government’ is cancelling that arrangement and asserting full control over the land at Penamser Road.
Because, if, as the councillors say, there is “local interest to develop the land and create jobs“, then local businesses should take priority over Morbaine’s clients, who will almost certainly come from over the border.
The ‘Welsh Government’ can be decisive enough when it comes to making mistakes; here’s a chance to get something right for a change, and help Welsh people.
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© Royston Jones 2023