02/07/2009 - 00:00

Calibre MD sets sights on growth

02/07/2009 - 00:00


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GOOD help, so the saying goes, is hard to find.

Calibre MD sets sights on growth

GOOD help, so the saying goes, is hard to find.

But Perth engineering group Calibre Global has bucked the odds to do just that, taking on high-profile mining chief Rod Baxter to capitalise on the opportunities thrown up by the global meltdown.

To some, the affable Aussie with a South African accent mining boss is a surprise choice as managing director of an engineering group.

As chief executive of Western Australian manganese and nickel miner Consolidated Minerals, Mr Baxter made his name locally by rebuilding the company's business reputation in 2007; a turnaround which culminated in a spectacular $1.1 billion cash takeover by Ukrainian billionaire Gennadiy Bogolyubov.

When Mr Baxter left ConsMin in early 2008, most observers expected him to quickly resurface at the helm of another listed miner keen to emulate ConsMin's performance.

Instead Mr Baxter says he spent the first few months "relaxing and getting to know the family again". That was followed by low-key return to public company life in January as a non-executive director of emerging Mid West iron ore miner and infrastructure group Murchison Metals, a role he remains strongly committed to.

However, Mr Baxter says his appointment to Calibre really shouldn't surprise anyone, not least because of Calibre's record as a "value engineer" and deliverer of major resources projects, especially in the bulk commodities sector that has dominated his career. Similarly, Calibre fits the bill perfectly for someone whose self-professed passion is for building and growing businesses for the benefit of their shareholders.

"Calibre is an entrepreneurial company that has grown remarkably fast in the last seven years and is ready for that next phase of evolution," Mr Baxter said.

"I looked at that, and then looked at the things I really enjoy, which is taking businesses, building them, growing them, modifying them and adding value for the shareholders, and this is just a great opportunity to do that."

Since it was formed in 2002, Calibre has completed or is completing resources and infrastructure projects worth $17 billion, including 11 major iron ore projects in the Pilbara, and 85 per cent of all Pilbara rail development since 2005.

Despite the downturn, the 2008-09 financial year has been a record (though the actual figures remain top secret) and Calibre expects to maintain its record of doubling revenue every two years.

Mr Baxter said Calibre's strength put it in a prime position to capitalise on the inevitable opportunities created as the resources and infrastructure markets rebounded.

"All the planets are aligned here," he said. "We've come through the global financial crisis; there will be a recovery, there's no doubt about it and I can see an opportunity to corporatise this business ... into something that will excite the market potentially in the future."

Mr Baxter's strategy is three pronged: optimise the existing business; capitalise on organic growth options within those businesses; and finally, pursue non-organic growth opportunities.

"We are exploring a number of opportunities including alliances and joint ventures, and at the same time, I'm also looking at strategic investors and acquisitions, focusing ultimately towards something where we could have a public face," he said.

That means a public listing, either directly or via the back-door, is likely down the track, though Mr Baxter stresses his approach will be careful and not dictated by any artificial timetable.

"I want to make sure I've got a really good solid story to bring to the market when I'm ready," he said.

More immediately, Mr Baxter said Calibre would focus on expanding its reach into allied industries, such as the east coast coal and civil infrastructure sectors.

For Calibre founder and executive chairman Ray Munro, Mr Baxter's appointment is a critical step on Calibre successfully moving to the next level.

"It's no secret that we are interested in increasing the size of Calibre Global and Rod's appointment will help us achieve that," Mr Munro said.

Mr Munro will remain executive chairman, while co-founder David Walker will also remain "closely engaged in the business". The two men jointly own more than 90 per cent of the company, in which Mr Baxter has also purchased a small equity stake as a sign of his commitment to the group.



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