Clough closes on US por­tal

The West Australian - - WEST BUSINESS - Peter Wil­liams Ade­laide

Clough is clos­ing in on an ac­qui­si­tion that could pro­vide a gate­way to engi­neer­ing and con­struc­tion work on LNG projects in the US, chief ex­ec­u­tive Peter Ben­nett says.

Mr Ben­nett said the Perth­based firm hoped to fi­nalise a deal by the end of the cal­en­dar year to buy what Clough’s par­ent Mur­ray & Roberts has de­scribed as a small ac­qui­si­tion of a US com­pany.

He said Clough was tar­get­ing the mid­stream and down­stream gas pro­cess­ing mar­ket, in par­tic­u­lar smaller LNG plants with ca­pac­ity of up to two mil­lion tonnes a year.

“(The mar­ket’s) not well served in the project size that we’re tar­get­ing,” Mr Ben­nett said on the side­lines of the Aus­tralian Petroleum Pro­duc­tion and Ex­plo­ration As­so­ci­a­tion con­fer­ence yes­ter­day.

“The ac­qui­si­tion’s go­ing to pro­vide us the boots-on­the-ground project de­liv­ery ca­pa­bil­ity. But cer­tainly a lot of the tech­ni­cal and project man­age­ment skillsets of Clough will be sup­ported from Perth and (we’ll) trans­late those skills over there.”

The engi­neer­ing com­pany al­ready has a small US pres­ence through LNG con­sult­ing sub­sidiary CH-IV.

The move comes as Clough in Aus­tralia has shifted back to in­fra­struc­ture and min­ing work as the LNG con­struc­tion boom ends.

The com­pany last week se­cured an early works con­tract with BHP for non-process in­fra­struc­ture at the proposed South Flank iron ore project in the Pil­bara.

Its or­der book by the end of the first half had fallen to about $400 mil­lion, from $520 mil­lion a year ear­lier, as hookup and com­mis­sion­ing work on the Wheat­stone and Ichthys LNG projects off the North West wound up.

The com­pany made an oper­at­ing profit of about $10 mil­lion in the half, as tight mar­gins ate up most of about $500 mil­lion rev­enue.

Mr Ben­nett re­ported re­newed con­fi­dence among clients now oil prices had re­cov­ered and Wood­side Petroleum was look­ing to de­velop the Scar­bor­ough gas project off Ex­mouth.

“We do see and feel that we’re at that in­flec­tion point now where the mar­ket is start­ing to award projects rather than in­ves­ti­gate projects,” he said.

He said LNG prospects were also promis­ing in Pa­pua New Guinea, where Clough has a long-es­tab­lished pres­ence.

Mr Ben­nett said he did not ex­pect a po­ten­tial takeover of South Africa’s Mur­ray & Roberts by big­gest share­holder ATON of Ger­many would have any im­pact on Clough.

“If you look at the ATON busi­ness model they’re very much an in­vest­ment hold­ings com­pany,” he said.

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