New Hampshire heating oil company files for bankruptcy protection

Markets Associated Press

A New Hampshire home heating oil company that faced customer delivery delays and a lawsuit earlier this year has filed for bankruptcy protection.

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Hudson-based Fred Fuller Oil & Propane Co., Inc., filed the paperwork in federal bankruptcy court on Monday, with the hope of achieving a quick sale, Attorney General Joseph Foster said.

Foster said Tuesday the proceeding allows for transparency regarding its financial information for potential buyers — and there are buyers interested in acquiring the company.

Fuller, which serves about 30,000 customers in New Hampshire, faced customer delivery delays last winter. The state intervened when customers complained they could not reach someone by phone, and set up a hotline.

The company said a combination of extreme weather conditions, a huge increase in oil and propane demand and an overload and temporary crash of the company phone system led to its delivery problems.

"Our role and our goal and our hope is that any buyer who comes along would assume the obligation to honor the pre-buy contracts, as well as the people who perhaps are on a budget plan," Foster said. He added, "We're going to do our best and everything in our power to have that happen."

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In the meantime, Foster advised Fuller customers to watch their tanks and reach out to the company if the levels are low. He said Fuller would likely seek financing to continue to make deliveries as needed.

The bankruptcy protection filing estimates Fuller has 1,000 to 5,000 creditors, assets of $10 million to $50 million, and liabilities of $10 million to $50 million.

In September, Sprague Energy, a major supplier of home heating oil, had sued Fuller, saying Fuller owes it $4.7 million in unpaid bills. It is listed in the bankruptcy filing as a creditor holding one the 20 largest unsecured claims.

At least $7.6 million is claimed by a group of creditors whose names have been omitted from the list, pending a court order. Among the other creditors listed are Harvard Pilgrim Health Care in Boston, National Interstate Insurance in Richfield, Ohio, and Energy Kinetics Inc., of Lebanon, New Jersey.