Asco fuels up growth with fresh funding

ASCO, the energy logistics heavyweight, has agreed a £40 million funding package as it eyes further overseas expansion and a push into new areas.
Ascos Derek Smith: Australian deal can be a springboardAscos Derek Smith: Australian deal can be a springboard
Ascos Derek Smith: Australian deal can be a springboard

The Aberdeen-based firm, which is owned by private equity outfit Doughty Hanson and members of the management team, said it was using some £15m of the investment to acquire a majority stake in an Australian business.

Chief executive Derek Smith said the deal to become the biggest shareholder in Bonnie Rock Transport, a specialist provider of oil and gas logistics support based in Western Australia, would provide a “springboard” to further expansion in the region.

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Asco, which can trace its roots back to 1967 and employs some 2,400 people globally, said the funding package had been provided by a banking syndicate led by HSBC. The financing is also likely to support acquisition activity in the Middle East and Africa, as well as organic growth.

News of the fresh funding and deal down under came as the group published its annual report and accounts, revealing a 13.3 per cent hike in total revenues to £768.6 million.

Operating profits for the year to 31 December leapt by 158 per cent to £14.8m while earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda) nudged up almost 3 per cent to £37.6m. A large proportion of the group’s turnover varies with both the oil price and vessel supply market. However, these revenues generate a fixed level of margin.

It described one of the highlights of 2013 as the signing of a three-year $100m (£60m) contract with energy giant BG in Tanzania. Smith said the agreement gave his company a strong foothold in east Africa where growth could be “leveraged on the back of the big boys”. It could also facilitate a push into nearby nations such as Kenya.

Smith said: “The year saw us make further progress towards our strategic goals of growing our capability and remaining focused on customer service and exceptional excellence.

“Our wider geographic coverage and service range is also helping us develop new capabilities and diversify our business.”

He said the North Sea continued to be a key area, where the firm supports hundreds of jobs, and further investment would be undertaken at its Peterhead operations.

“Collaboration in our industry is going to be key,” Smith added. “If we come together as an industry and work in closer partnership, we will ensure maximum returns not just within the UK Continental Shelf, but around the world.”

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He said the Australian acquisition offered “fabulous opportunities” to work alongside major operators which are investing heavily in the pursuit of new oil and gas supplies.

Perth-based Bonnie Rock has a string of depots in Western Australia and one in Queensland.

Managing director Jim Currie, one of the company’s four founding family members, said: “We are excited about the opportunities that will come with joining a group the size and expertise of Asco. We look forward to growing our business across Australia.”

Matt Thomas, head of Asco Australasia, added: “Bonnie 
Rock Transport is a perfect fit with our international activities and our expansion plans in Australia.”