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Engineering consultants take stock

THERE has been plenty of activity in the State’s engineering consulting sector of late, with mergers and restructuring efforts following a continued period of adverse market conditions.

Mergers such as that of Aker and Kvaerner and the restructuring strategies of Clough underline the pace of change required to keep up with client demands across the industry spectrum.

And there also have been joint ventures, such as that between Hatch Australia and Connell Wagner, which widened market exposure in a competitive marketplace.

Australia Aker Kvaerner facilities management operations director Tony Ramshaw said the recent merger of Aker and Kvaerner was a case where the merged entity was stronger than the individual parts.

“There’ve been significant changes and we’re trying to look at the benefits for the total organisation and pulling together different parts of both companies to make a better package for the customer,” he said.

The merger meant cutting overheads, and for Kvaerner meant one less competitor in ‘the buyer’s hook-up and commissioning’.

“I think Aker offshore partners were number one and Kvaerner facilities management was number two in the bidding process, and of course now the two companies are the same,” Mr Ramshaw said.

Aker Kvaerner has offices around the metropolitan area, each targeting a different market. Its Belmont office produces all underwater items for wells, while at Welshpool the company builds skips to use in onshore and offshore jobs. One of its major clients is General Electric. 

The head office in Perth deals mainly with the construction, metal, oil and gas and maritime industries.

Mr Ramshaw said his company was looking to expand its engineering capabilities in Perth and away from Melbourne, especially in the oil and gas industry.

“There is a strong realisation that there is a strong market in Perth that we have not been serving as well as we could have done,” he said

Over at Haliburton Energy Services, which ranked seventh in the WA Business News Book of Lists 2003, senior operations manager Bruce Roebuck said the company’s diverse geographic spread had helped ensure it could ride out the current slowdown.

“We don’t have any intention of downsizing at all because of sustained activity levels in other locations,” he said.

“We have a fairly high-skilled workforce, so if Australia activity goes quiet we can re-deploy them.”

Alongside mergers, a new engineering consulting player has appeared in the WA market – 100 per cent Clough Limited-owned C Engineering and Integrated Services (CEIS).

C Engineering general manager John Coral described the company as offering front-end conceptual design and detailed engineering, operations commissioning and consultancy services. The company works in the oil and gas industry, mineral and infrastructure, manufacturing and defence. 

Mr Coral said C Engineering was independent from Clough –currently undergoing significant restructuring – and stressed that the company had its own board of directors and CEO.

“The main task of Clough is to do engineering procurement and construction work and the function of CEIS is to do what we call EPCM – engineering procurement construction management,” Mr Coral said.

“The CEIS portfolio of customers includes Woodside, Santos and Shell.”

Hatch Australia is also targeting new areas with an autonomous offshoot under a joint venture framework.

Hatch managing director for WA Greg Faukuier told WA Business News his company had formed the Connell-Hatch joint venture with Connell Wagner to target Australasian markets. The result, he said, was a company that ran independently from Hatch Australia.

“We intend on developing more of the industry sector’s requirements for infrastructure, project development, and implementation and mining infrastructure,” Mr Faukuier said.

The two main lines of business for most engineering companies are minerals and metals in one side, and oil and gas – onshore and offshore – on the other. 

Ranked sixth in the WA Business News Book of Lists 2003 is PCT Engineers. Managing director Angelo Dabala said 60 per cent of the company’s business was derived from oil and gas and only 20 per cent came from mines and minerals. In addition, the company worked 10 per cent in utilities and a further 10 per cent in miscellaneous industries.

As contrast, 70 per cent of Hatch Australia’s business is in mining and metal, including industrial minerals, and 30 per cent in the oil and gas industry.

Mr Faukuier said WA was a very rich State that offered plenty of opportunities for expansion.

“You just need to take a look at some of the traditional mining areas like Kalgoorlie and the surrounding metal mines, particularly gold,” he said.

There was an increased interest from overseas companies to invest in WA, especially from American, Canadian and South African established mining companies and Australian companies, Mr Faukuier said.

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