Exova looking for more acquisitions

Ian El-Mokadem: 'We're feeling pretty positive'

Ian El-Mokadem: 'We're feeling pretty positive'

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MATERIALS testing firm Exova is on the look-out for more deals after making a string of acquisitions since it floated last year.

The Edinburgh-based firm, which employs about 4,000 people around the world, completed three takeovers in 2014 and two last month, including an asbestos inspection specialist that is working on the former Chapelcross nuclear plant in Dumfries and Galloway.

Chief executive Ian El-Mokadem said: “We have a fairly well-developed pipeline of opportunities, and we’re involved in quite a few conversations right now. We won’t hesitate to walk away if they don’t look right, but we’re feeling pretty positive about our ability to continue adding to the group.”

He was speaking after Exova revealed it had narrowed its pre-tax losses for 2014 to £23.7 million, down from £25.6m the previous year, and declared a maiden final dividend of 2p a share, to be paid on 5 June.

El-Mokadem, the former UK and Ireland managing director of catering giant Compass who joined Exova in 2011, told The Scotsman that the company had delivered a “solid” improvement in its margins, while the impact of acquisitions contributed 4.7 per cent growth to annual revenues, which came in at £274.9m.

Along with its Newbridge headquarters, the firm has an oil and gas and pharmaceuticals testing facility near Edinburgh Airport, an environmental site in Glasgow and an oil and gas laboratory in Aberdeen. About 300 of its staff are based in Scotland.

Given its importance to the offshore sector, El-Mokadem said Aberdeen was a “strategic site” for the group, which last year closed a laboratory in Norway in favour of expanding its presence in the Granite City.

He added: “Oil and gas will contract globally for us this year with the oil price being lower, but there are opportunities to develop in areas like corrosion and coatings testing. In some cases, those services can be a way for clients to save money by getting materials fit for purpose.”

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