Petrofac beefs up defences amid threat of takeover
OIL services firm Petrofac is readying its defence against the looming threat of an opportunistic takeover as its battle against corruption allegations drags on.
City sources told The Sunday Telegraph that a refreshed squad of advisers will be undertaking a forensic study of the firm’s true value as a pre-emptive strike against a hostile takeover following a sharp slump in its share price.
Petrofac has been left exposed to the possibility of an unwelcome swoop after its stock market value halved within weeks of a Serious Fraud Office probe commencing into its alleged involvement in the Unaoil corruption scandal.
The SFO is investigating whether the company secured service contracts by paying bribes to Unaoil, which it suspects was acting as a “middleman” in deals across the global industry. Both Petrofac and Unaoil have denied wrongdoing. Ayman Asfari, the group’s chief executive and largest shareholder, is also battling personal insider trading allegations made by the Italian authorities. These are also allegations that he denies.
Even though Petrofac has managed to snap up a string of lucrative contracts in the Middle East and Russia, its share price has remained at stubbornly low levels. Sources say this makes the firm a tempting target. Petrofac’s share price has crashed 51pc since the start of the year, leaving it with a market cap of £1.5bn.
Its position looks more precarious following a wave of deal activity in the oil services industry.
In recent weeks Wood Group completed a £2.2bn merger with Amec Foster-wheeler, while Canada’s Snclavalin snapped up Uk-based WS Atkins in a £2.1bn deal over the summer.
According to industry insiders Mr Asfari is committed to turning the company around and is unlikely to welcome an approach. He currently holds over 18pc of the company, posing a serious hurdle for buyers.
A spokesperson for Petrofac said: “Petrofac keeps all of its advisory relationships under regular review as part of its ordinary course of business.”