A PLUMBING and heating merchant which went out of business amid bad debts and falling demand owed more than £1.4million to unsecured creditors, its administrators believe.

Rockett Plumbing and Heating Supplies Ltd had been a successful business, expanding from its original Moordown base to add a kitchen and bathroom showroom nearby.

After carrying out a large refurbishment project in Southampton, it won two contracts to fit out 172 apartments for £900,000 and opened another base in Poole.

But the company made a £150,000 loss on the contracts, and the Poole operation became less productive when family illness meant owner Steve Rockett was unable to supervise it closely.

Towards the end of 2016, Mr Rockett sought extra finance and worked on improving profitability. With no further investment available, he closed the Poole base, but the business went into administration.

An update from the administrator Antony Batty said there were expected to be 166 non-preferential, unsecured creditors, with a total liability of £1,429,639.

Administrators had so far received claims from 44 creditors – of which seven were not on the original list – totalling £494,292. That left 129 creditors who had not submitted claims.

HSBC Invoice Financing, which had a charge on the company’s debts and assets, had recovered £57,408 and its claim stood at £68,566 so far.

The administrators did not believe there would be any money for unsecured creditors.

Mr Rockett, who started the business in 2012, had more than 35 years’ experience in the industry. The firm was started with a loan of £50,000 from family friend Malcolm Thorp, who later increased his investment to £300,000 including unpaid interest.

After the business went under in 2017, Steve Rockett said cash flow had been under “severe pressure” and the firm had fallen victim to bad debts.

He also said the 2016 referendum on EU membership had been followed by a fall in demand.

“After Brexit, for the first three weeks there was no difference. Then there was three to four week period where everything went absolutely dead, to the point I could probably have operated on 10 per cent of the staff,” he said.