PETROLEUM Experts, one of Scotland’s most profitable companies, has defied the impact of the oil price slump to post record financial results and to launch a recruitment drive.
The Edinburgh-based software company, founded by entrepreneur Hamid Guedroudj, said challenging times for the sector meant it was able to attract the high-calibre people who would normally be difficult to find.
It is also increasing its research and development spend to ensure it is in a strong position when the market recovers. Despite sales in the UK falling by almost 28 per cent during the year amid North Sea cutbacks, growth in markets such as Australasia, North America and the Middle East helped it increase sales to just under £40 million in the year to 30 September, a 2 per cent rise on the previous year.
According to its latest accounts, pre-tax profits rose to £32.2m from £30.5m, a 5.6 per cent increase that Guedroudj said was partly down to improvements in efficiency. The company’s workforce increased by 6.5 per cent to 65 during the year – meaning the company generated almost £500,000 in profit from each member of staff.
Guedroudj said the results highlighted the resilience of the firm, which provides oil firms with digital mapping tools to improve production efficiency. Its clients include BP, Chevron and Shell.
“The past two years have been the most challenging times for the oil and gas industry since 1986. Although we live with a cyclical industry, the latest cycle has led customers to severely curtail their spending, reduce their budget and shelve some development plans in an unprecedented way,” he pointed out.
Although Guedroudj said predicting the future price of oil was very difficult, some of the company’s technology is used to get the most out of an existing asset, which he believes means there is “still a lot of room to grow despite the adverse conditions”.
The company is launching a number of products this month which he said would deliver a “quantum leap in capability” and would put the group ahead of rivals in the industry.
Although sales in the UK and Africa fell last year, the company saw increases in the rest of Europe (+3.7 per cent), Australasia (+35.9 per cent), North America (+11.6 per cent), South America (+11.1 per cent) and the Middle East (+6.8 per cent).
Last year Guedroudj signalled a major move into philanthropy on the back of bumper profits from his company which have now totalled more than £140m in the past six years.
A £30m dividend payment was made in 2014 to fund organisations dedicated to good causes. No dividend was paid in the latest year with retained profit being transferred to reserves.
The company’s recently filed accounts show the highest-paid director at the company received £200,000, compared with £200,227 in the previous year.
Algerian-born oil consultant Guedroudj, 61, developed Petroleum Experts from a start-up with no external funding and its technology has since been utilised in more than 200 oil fields.
Its technology captures the behaviour of the oilfield digitally, allowing it to be viewed on a PC.
The applications are used as an online management system of an oil and gas company’s assets throughout their life-cycle.
In 2014 Guedroudj was named as EY Scotland’s entrepreneur of the year, with the judges describing him as a “standout entrepreneur” and highlighted the “phenomenal achievements” of his company.