Capital restructuring will allow Arabtec to focus on long-term prospects, says chief executive

Arabtec Holding’s chief executive, Hamish Tyrwhitt, has said that he is confident the capital restructuring programme, for which the company will seek approval from shareholders next week, will allow the group “to capitalise on the positive long-term outlook for the construction and engineering sector in our key geographic market”.

Writing in the company’s annual report, filed on the Dubai Financial Market yesterday, Mr Tyrwhitt said that Arabtec’s three-year turnaround plan would help “to reposition the group to deliver profitable and sustainable growth for its shareholders”.

Its shareholders are set to vote on proposals for a recapitalisation at Arabtec’s annual general meeting, which takes place on 18 April.

The company is proposing to embark on an initial rights issue, followed by a capital reduction.

The rights issue will raise Dh1.5 billion through the issue of 1.5 billion new shares, taking the total amount of shares in circulation beyond 6.1 billion. Following this, a capital reduction will take place, where more than 4.6 billion shares will be cancelled on a pro-rata basis, releasing liabilities that will allow the company to write off more than Dh4.6bn of accumulated losses.

Aabar Investments, which is Arabtec’s single biggest shareholder with a 36.11 per cent stake in the company, is effectively underwriting the offer. On March 22, Arabtec filed audited accounts that showed it declared a net loss to shareholders of Dh3.4bn to shareholders last year, and that it made impairments of Dh1.9bn.

Writing in its annual report, Mr Tyrwhitt said that the Dh1.9bn worth of impairments were recognised on “high-risk items”.

“It was deemed important to address these risks in the financial statements so that investors could have confidence about the future,” Mr Tyrwhitt said.

Of the Dh1.9bn impaired, 62 per cent (Dh1.18bn) was for amounts d ue from related parties, while Dh447.4m was written off against trade and other receivables. A further provision of almost Dh215m was made against doubtful debts.

Accounts also show that the amount owed to the company from related parties for contract work it has carried out dropped to Dh21m by the end of 2016, down from Dh1.05bn a year earlier.

The previous set of accounts for the nine months to September 30 showed that in that period, Arabtec was owed Dh1.63bn from related parties, and Dh1.19bn of this was owed to it from shareholders. In the report the company did not specify which shareholders owed it the money and Arabtec declined to comment further on the matter. Aabar Investments did not respond to requests for comment.

Writing in Arabtec’s annual report, which was published on the Dubai Financial Market on Monday, the company’s chairman, Mohamed Al Rumaithi, said that the recapitalisation programme “strengthens the group’s financial position and is for the benefit of all stakeholders”.

He added that said the support pledged by Aabar Investments for the capital restructuring represented “a huge vote of confidence in the board and in the continuing strength of our business”.

Aabar has pledged not only to take up its full allocation under the rights issue but also to acquire any unallocated shares should other shareholders choose not to subscribe.

Aymen Soufi, an analyst with Tunisian equity research company AlphaMena, said that Aabar’s support for the recapitalisation programme means that it will go ahead.

“Even if there is no one participating in the rights issue, Aabar will do it by itself, which reflects its interest in Arabtec.”

Arabtec’s recapitalisation is an important part of a strategy set out by the company’s new management team, headed by Mr Tyrwhitt, to stabilise the troubled contractor and then prepare it for growth by concentrating on core capabilities in general contracting, infrastructure work and mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) contracting through its three major subsidiaries — Arabtec Construction, Target Engineering and Efeco. It also plans to raise further funds by selling off non-core assets.

Aabar Investments has already supported Arabtec in the form of a Dh400m loan, which was provided to the company in July last year. By the end of 2016, Arabtec had drawn down Dh177.7m of this.

Arabtec shares fell 0.5 per cent yesterday(Monday) to close at 92.9 fils apiece. They are down 29.1 per cent for the year to date.

mfahy@thenational.ae

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