12/08/2019 - 12:31

Major contractor set for new start

12/08/2019 - 12:31

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Altrad Services has become one of the largest contractors in Western Australia after the privately owned French group merged and rebranded its Cape Australia and Hertel businesses.

Major contractor set for new start
Neil Sadler says Altrad focuses on what it can improve. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

Altrad Services has become one of the largest contractors in Western Australia after the privately owned French group merged and rebranded its Cape Australia and Hertel businesses.

As well as being a major contractor in the local mining and energy sectors, Altrad will run its Asia Pacific projects business from Perth.

In addition, its global centre of excellence for LNG projects is in Perth.

Overseeing the group’s regional operations is Perth-based chief executive Asia Pacific Neil Sadler, who admits Altrad has not been very good at selling itself to the market.

“We worked on Gorgon, Wheatstone, Prelude and Ichthys and that’s not widely known,” Mr Sadler told Business News.

“We had close to 5,400 people across Cape and Hertel at the peak.”

Like all resources sector contractors, Altrad’s business has shrunk in recent years but it still has nearly 2,000 people in Australia, including 1,350 in WA.

That puts it behind market leaders like Monadelphous and Downer but on a par with the likes of Linkforce, NRW Holdings, UGL and Civmec, according to the latest BNiQ ranking of contractors in WA.

The integration and rebranding of the Cape and Hertel businesses in Australia is part of a global process being undertaken by Altrad – a name barely known outside Europe.

Mohed Altrad, who founded the French group in 1985, has a remarkable personal story.

Born in Syria to Bedouin nomadic parents and forbidden from attending school as a child, he started with a scaffolding business and now oversees a large and diversified industrial services group.

Mr Altrad’s success was recognised in 2015 when he was selected as EY’s world entrepreneur of the year.

Since then, his company has quadrupled in size and now boasts 42,000 employees across 50 countries and total revenue of $US5.4 billion.

Much of that growth has come from acquisitions, including Dutch company Hertel in 2015 and UK-based Cape in 2017.

As well as working on LNG construction projects, the group’s core business is maintenance services for mining and energy projects, including big shutdowns.

Specific services include protective coatings, industrial cleaning, insulation, rope access and scaffolding.

Mr Sadler said Altrad was a registered training organisation, which gave it a market advantage.

“Our business is being able to mobilise large numbers of good-quality people,” he said.

One measure of the group’s success in Australia is that it has racked up 19.2 million man-hours without a lost-time injury

Mr Sadler believes Altrad’s Asian network also gives it a competitive edge.

“We have quite a unique offering because we can do the work in the construction yards for LNG and we can follow that through and do the site work, so you get consistency of management,” he said.

Its major customers include Woodside, BHP, Newmont, Tronox and Alcoa.

Recent wins include a $380 million contract extension, with joint venture partner UGL, on Woodside’s Karratha gas plant life extension program.

Mr Sadler said Altrad was always on the lookout for improvements.

“It’s completely pointless going into a customer and telling them what you are doing well; they already know that,” he said.

“The only value is understanding what you can improve on, so let’s have an honest conversation and understand what you can do better.”

The restructuring at Altrad has coincided with a major development at another large contractor in the WA market.

Mader Group, which was established by executive director Luke Mader in 2005, has started an investor roadshow for a $50 million share offer ahead of an ASX listing.

The group has 650 people in WA and more than 1,100 globally, with annual revenue of $226 million.

Its core business is maintenance and shutdown services to the mining sector.

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