Several non-binding offers have been tabled to save closure-threatened Belfast shipyard Harland and Wolff and its workforce, administrators have said.
BDO Northern Ireland said there had been a “healthy level of interest” in taking over the historic business and predicted that other offers may also emerge.
The administrators said they were extending a temporary unpaid lay-off of the workforce until September 30 in order to explore the various rescue deal options.
Famed for building the Titanic, the shipyard went into administration earlier this month after its troubled Norwegian parent company, Dolphin Drilling, failed to find a buyer.
The latest announcement from BDO came ahead of a planned rally outside the yard on Friday.
Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith is also due to take part in a meeting convened by Belfast City Council to discuss the future of Harland and Wolff on Friday afternoon.
The shipyard workers, who have occupied the site round the clock for nearly four weeks as part of a high-profile campaign to save their jobs, have called on the Government to step in to rescue the operation through nationalisation.
The shipbuilder, whose famous yellow cranes Samson and Goliath dominate the Belfast skyline, employed more than 30,000 people during Belfast’s industrial heyday but the workforce numbered only around 125 when the company went into administration.
Known around the world for building the doomed White Star liner Titanic, which sank on her maiden trans-Atlantic voyage in 1912 after striking an iceberg, Harland and Wolff was one of the UK’s key industrial producers during the Second World War, supplying almost 150 warships.
On Friday morning, accountancy firm BDO NI said: “There has been a healthy level of interest with regard to purchasing the business, assets and safeguarding the existing jobs since the commencement of the administration process.
“This has resulted in a number of non-binding offers for the business, assets and employees on a going concern basis.
“There are also other interested parties who are in constructive discussions with the administrators which may result in further offers.
“The administrators, along with the unions and employees, have extended the unpaid temporary lay-off position beyond the 16th August 2019 to 30th September 2019 to allow additional time to seek to complete a sale of the business.
“The administrators and the limited retained team of workers at Harland and Wolff will continue to work with all interested parties and bidders as they undertake further financial and legal due diligence work in the coming weeks as every effort is made to secure a going concern sale.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been urged to follow the lead of the Scottish Government, which has intervened to save the Ferguson Marine shipbuilding yard in Glasgow.
The Government has resisted calls for direct action at Harland and Wolff, claiming its troubles are a commercial issue.