Arabtec unveils three-step recovery plan

Contractor Arabtec has said it intends to focus on “core competencies” in key Gulf markets as it looks to secure backing from investors for its latest turnaround plan.

The company, which is currently seeking a further cash injection of Dh1.5 billion from investors as part of a new recapitalisation programme, revealed details of a three-point recovery plan it is proposing to be carried out over the next three years.

The first phase, planned for this year, involves a stabilisation of the heavily loss-making business, implementing the recapitalisation to wipe out historic losses, establishing Arabtec Holding as a “strategic management company”, introducing better risk management and a “performance-based culture”, resolving legacy issues and disposing of “non-core” assets.

The second part, due next year, involves preparing the business for the future, which means keeping its costs in check, delivering projects on-time and to budget and “consistently” secure a backlog of projects worth about Dh8bn to Dh9bn.

The final phase, which will begin in 2019, will focus on growth, most notably its profit margins and its cash generation, as well as boosting its capabilities in: engineering procurement, construction and management (EPCM); infrastructure; MEP; and specialist construction. This will also be the first year in which it is targeting a potential dividend return to shareholders.

The plan has been devised by the group’s new chief executive, Hamish Tyrwhitt, who was appointed in November last year.

Among the actions planned to be taken this year include a “strategic review” of all its current investments, a disposal of any divisions it considers to be non-core and a recycling of the cash elsewhere in the business.

It also has an “action plan on legacy claims, receivables, and WIP (work in progress) to enable the group to focus on the future growth of the business without being restricted by problems from the past”, according to the document sent to investors, which the company has published on the Dubai Financial Market.

The recapitalisation plan for which the company is seeking investors’ backing involves a new rights issue to raise Dh1.5bn by increasing the size of its capital base from Dh4.6bn to Dh6.1bn.

Following the fund-raising it intends to then cancel 4.5 billion shares, which will help it to wipe out accumulated losses of Dh4.6bn.

The plan has effectively been underwritten by its biggest shareholder, Aabar Investments, which is part of the soon-to-merge Mubadala-Ipic investment company. Before the recapitalisation, Aabar Investments owns 36.11 per cent of Arabtec, but it has agreed to take its full allocation of shares under the new rights issue and buy up additional stock that any other shareholders decline to take.

The price at which the issue will be set will be determined later this month, when the company reveals its fully audited accounts for 2016. Preliminary accounts filed last month show a net loss attributable to its parent company of Dh3.4bn — a 45 per cent increase on the Dh2.3bn loss declared in 2015. Revenue climbed by 6 per cent to Dh7.7bn.

The company’s backlog fell by 4 per cent to Dh18.1bn. In its presentation document to investors, Arabtec said that over two-thirds (67 per cent) of this related to projects in the UAE.

The company said it held “a strong GCC footprint with a major focus on UAE market”. It added that it was “becoming increasingly selective with projects especially in KSA”, where it has pulled back from a joint venture with cash-strapped Saudi Binladin Group and had previously stated an intention to bid for work in that market independently.

mfahy@thenational.ae