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National Response Corp. to be sold by private equity owner and go public

The NRC Liberty, docked in Miami, is an

The NRC Liberty, docked in Miami, is an oil spill vessel maintained by National Response Corp. of Great River. Credit: National Response Corp.

A Long Island company that cleans up oil spills and deals with other environmental emergencies is being sold by its private equity parent for $662.5 million to a publicly traded acquisition company.

Great River-based National Response Corp. is being sold by J.F. Lehman & Co., to Hennessy Capital Acquisition Corp. III, which is traded on the NYSE American stock exchange.

Hennessy Capital is listed by the Securities and Exchange Commission as a "blank check company." Blank-check companies have no business plan but raise money intending eventually to acquire, or merge with, an established business. 

The companies announced the deal on Tuesday.

Once the acquisition is closed, Hennessy Capital will change its name to NRC Group Holding Corp. and will apply to maintain its stock listing on the NYSE American exchange under the ticker symbol NRCG.

The cash and stock deal is subject to adjustments, according to a government filing, and must be approved by shareholders of the blank-check company.

Chris Swinbank, chief executive of National Response Corp. since it was founded in 1992, will continue in that role.

In a conference call Wednesday, Swinbank said much of NRC's business is "nondiscretionary."

"If there's an incident or environmental spill, it has to be taken care of," he said.

In addition to oil drillers, NRC provides services to industrial, marine and rail transportation customers.

"We're waste guys," Swinbank said. "We're passionate about it."

A spokesman for Hennessy said NRC's headquarters would remain in Great River.

The transaction is expected to close in the third quarter.

Shares of Hennessy Capital, whose principal office is in Wilson, Wyoming, according to government filings, closed Wednesday unchanged at $10.15.

In addition to the funding from its 2017 initial public offering, the blank-check company has a $125 million loan agreement with Nomura Securities International.

In May, National Response Corp. acquired SWS Environmental Services Inc., a Fort Worth, Texas, provider of emergency environmental services.

National Response, which has worked on cleanup efforts such as the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, employs more than 1,400 people, including about 70 in Great River.

In the conference call, officials forecast that NRC will post revenue of $365 million to $390 million in 2018.

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