23/11/2011 - 10:47

Present Group makes a break with the past

23/11/2011 - 10:47


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Brian Grimmer has bounced back since the fallout of the GFC.

BRIAN Grimmer’s recent business history reads a bit like the Australian economy – rapid growth through the ‘noughties’, a sharp downturn during the GFC, followed by a swift recovery on the back of big resources and infrastructure projects around the country.

Not content with simply building his established Powertech business, however, Mr Grimmer has adopted a more ambitious goal.

Under a new brand, Present Group, his goal is to build the first dedicated commissioning and completions group in Australia.

So far the numbers look good. After seeing annual turnover fall below $25 million after the GFC, Mr Grimmer anticipates revenue will be between $70 million and $100 million in the current financial year.

He plans to almost double the number of workers to 400 by 2013.

Mr Grimmer said the company’s current status was the culmination of a 20-year journey, during which it had grown from testing services to commissioning and now completions consulting.

“We have evolved to address issues that were very poorly understood by the more conventional providers who see commissioning as an add-on to their main offerings,” he said.

The growth strategy includes geographic expansion. Having established itself in Brisbane and Gladstone to access the emerging coal seam gas market, the group will start operations in Newcastle and Melbourne next year as it diversifies into utilities and transport infrastructure.

“The hard bit has been done; the daunting part was keeping the faith from 2008 to 2010 and this is the manifestation of it all,” Mr Grimmer said.

He said there were limits on how fast the business could expand.

“At our current rate of organic growth we literally couldn’t be any more successful right now,” Mr Grimmer told WA Business News. “At any rate, the banks don’t like doubling facilities every few months.”

Mr Grimmer said the change of name arose because, while the Powertech brand had built up great employee and customer loyalty, it was too service-oriented for the company when it started consulting and commissioning management services.

Therefore the Present Group took its name as a constant reminder to make a positive impact on major energy, resource and infrastructure projects, which command the nation’s all-too-finite natural resources. 

“This is where the stakes are not only highest from an economic standpoint but more importantly an environmental one,” Mr Grimmer said, adding that promoting the new brand had taken a back seat to other priorities.

“When you have such rapid growth it takes a huge effort just to stay ahead of the curve,” he said. 

“Right now we are busy launching unified communications, a collaborative environment, a world-class ERP system plus migrating it all to the cloud.

“So it’s hardly surprising our new group websites won’t be up until six months after our official launch. Still, that doesn’t phase us, as a private company we are used to running in stealth mode.”

Along with the name change, the Present Group has established four distinct business domains to reflect its different capabilities: the original Powertech Services, which provides technical specialists; Seamless Resourcing, which mobilises multi-disciplined commissioning teams; Octave Consulting, which offers completions governance; and Precise Facilities, which coordinates inspection testing and measurement equipment plus calibration services.

Some of the company’s most recent projects include: work at Apache Energy’s new Devil Creek gas plant near Karratha, which is in the final stages of commissioning; inspection and testing services at Woodside’s Karratha gas plant; and commissioning support services for BHP Billiton Iron Ore’s rapid growth projects.

It has also been involved with commissioning a new desalination plant in Victoria, electrical and instrumentation work at Origin Energy’s coal seam gas infrastructure in Queensland and providing an inspection team to South Korea where Woodside’s North Rankin B ‘topside’ platform has been assembled.

With many opportunities for organic growth, Mr Grimmer said the company had turned down almost 40 M&A proposals over the past eight years, including by major engineering contractors and private equity firms.

He said the company couldn’t be true to its mission and would be conflicted as far as its verification, certification, commissioning and completions services if it were to sell out to one of those businesses.

“This realisation has made it all the more important that we never sell out and join with an EPCM (engineering, procurement and construction management) company, constructor or equipment vendor if we are to stay true to our overall objective of becoming a great global commissioning and completions group,” Mr Grimmer said.

Instead, Present Group is working with accounting firm PwC to establish an internal equity scheme.

“If we get this right then this great team we now have and continue to attract will become the primary beneficiaries of their own collective success,” Mr Grimmer said.


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