Divex duo net multi-million pound deal

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Two directors of an Aberdeen-based diving equipment supplier have netted a multi-million pound windfall after selling their firm to marine engineering group James Fisher & Sons for up to £33 million.

Derek Clarke and Doug Godsman, joint managing directors of Divex, have agreed to remain with the business following the deal, unveiled yesterday.

Clarke owned about 51 per cent of the company, which generated a turnover of £34.2m in the year to 30 November, while Godsman had a 28 per cent stake. Doug Austin, group business development manager and head of its Asia Pacific arm, will also stay on with the firm.

Barrow-based James Fisher has paid an initial £20m in cash for Divex, which employs about 240 people across operations in Aberdeen, Australia, Dubai and South Africa. It may shell out a further £13m, depending on the firm meeting profit targets.

Clarke said: “We actually started the process of finding a suitable parent company some three years ago and we sought a company where we had a good fit and a similar ethos and culture.

“We thought James Fisher would be an excellent parent back then and the discussions that have taken place over the passing months only reinforced that view.”

Nick Henry, chief executive of James Fisher, added: “We believe that Divex will fit well with our group in terms of its market, customers and geographical spread.”

Divex began life as Aberdeen’s Barry, Henry & Cook iron foundry in 1790, but evolved into a diving equipment supplier through a series of mergers and acquisitions.

Along with products for commercial divers serving the energy industry, the company supplies equipment for military divers and its technology forms part of Nato’s Submarine Rescue System (NSRS), which is based at the Clyde submarine base.

James Fisher’s existing Scottish interests include submarine rescue service Rumic, which is based in Renfrew and provides a standby service for the Royal Navy to rescue crews from stricken vessels.

Rumic hit the headlines in 2005 when one of its remote-controlled deep sea rovers helped save the lives of seven Russian submariners trapped underwater.

Divex was advised on its sale to James Fisher by the corporate finance team at KPMG in Aberdeen. Associate director Ian Knott said: “This deal is a great example of how a successful transaction can be agreed without the need for an extensive auction process.”

James Fisher, which last year sold its railway engineering division to Hitachi Europe for £25.5m, also announced yesterday that its underlying pre-tax profits jumped 18 per cent to £35.4m last year.

The board proposed a 10 per cent rise in its final dividend to 11.83p a share.