13/08/2008 - 22:00

New faces leading Cape

13/08/2008 - 22:00

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After an eventful year, the Australian business of UK-based industrial services group Cape plc has been restructured under a new leadership group.

New faces leading Cape

After an eventful year, the Australian business of UK-based industrial services group Cape plc has been restructured under a new leadership group.

Former Austal Ltd chief operating officer Steve Murdoch took the helm of Cape's Australian operations about three months ago, and now heads a six-person executive team full of new faces.

The six will form a head office group overseeing four regional divisions, each with its general manager, who will report through to the management team via Cape's Australian director of operations Allan Hart.

"If you look at it, we have mimicked how Cape corporate works," Mr Murdoch said, describing it as a low-overhead operation.

The management group is currently based at PCH Group's Malaga operations but plans to relocate into the CBD.

Mr Murdoch said the new regional structure reflected the strengths of the existing business units and the opportunities for Cape, applying a methodology of bundling industrial services.

For instance, Queensland is a relatively small part of the Australian division's $250 million to $300 million annual turnover but, along with north Western Australia/Northern Territory, it offered significant upside, particularly in the oil and gas sector.

The two regions of NSW/Victoria/Tasmania and south Western Australia/South Australia represented the more mature parts of its operations.

Last calendar year Cape, which is listed on the Alternative Investment Market in London, bought three Australian businesses, including the $247 million hostile takeover of listed Malaga-based scaffolding company PCH Group Ltd and the friendly $85 million buyout of Kwinana-based maintenance and anti-corrosion company TCC Group.

It also paid $101 million for Melbourne-based Concept Hire, which had previously bought Balcatta firm, Blackadder Scaffolding.

After this buying spree, most of PCH's management team left to join another Malaga company, Modern Industries, which was planning to invest up to $40 million in a rival business unit, Modern Access Services.

Mr Murdoch was unfazed by the past exodus, claiming Cape has the management team in place to take advantage of the opportunities the group sees in Australia.

He conveys a sense of an uncompromising style, stating that everyone who has taken a role in the management team understood what the job was and what needed to be done - including travel and the willingness to be available at short notice.

"We live on planes," Mr Murdoch said. "While we live here [Perth], we have an Australian focus."

The Cape Australian chief said his background was largely in mining with a specialty around restructuring distressed assets and building management teams.

He said he was general manager at MIM at Mt Isa in Queensland until it was taken over by Xstrata plc.

His most recent position was at Austal, which he joined in 2005 in a role that largely replaced outgoing managing director, Bob McKinnon.

Mr Murdoch was seen to be a future Austal CEO, but that did not eventuate. It was recently announced that Bob Browning, currently the shipbuilder's US boss following his departure from Alinta Ltd, will take on the top job at Austal.

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