Tuesday, 25 October 2011 00:10
Published: Oct 24, 2011 23:08 Updated: Oct 24, 2011 23:08
DEAD SEA, Jordan: British engineering firm AMEC is ready to move workers back into Libya as its new rulers attempt to restore oil production and rebuild the conflict-torn country’s infrastructure, AMEC’s chief executive said.
Foreign firms evacuated expatriate employees from the north African country as it descended into civil war in late February.
The end of fighting last week has focused attention on the vast business opportunities there.
“We are very involved now in discussions with the Libyan government,” said CEO Samir Brikho.
“We evacuated 50 expats in the first weeks ... and we are now ready to move them back.”
The company, which designs and builds infrastructure for the oil and gas, nuclear and renewable energy sectors, sees more opportunities than before in Libya because of the expected scramble to get oil out back on track and the need to diversify its sources of income, he said.
“Now is the time for Libyans to create a vision on using income from oil to achieve maybe by 2020 an economy not depending on oil and gas like it is today.”
He was speaking on the sidelines of a business forum in Jordan where company executives played up the outlook for a Middle East rocked by popular uprisings and a wave of protests this year that, in the short term at least, made for a more unpredictable business environment.
Brikho said AMEC’s business in the Middle East had been growing by 25 percent per year and the potential of the region had not diminished.
With governments seeking to diversify away from burning oil to create electricity, the company plans to focus on gas, nuclear power services and renewable energy, Brikho said.
New business in Libya could boost its profits as early as next year, he said, but the broader benefits of those regional trends would not filter down to its bottom line before 2013 or 2015 at the earliest.
“The good thing in the region is that they have the money,” he said. “The question is whether they will invest it in their own country or somewhere else?”
AMEC is focusing its expansion on the Middle East, Australasia and Latin America and the industries of oil and gas, subsea engineering, underground mining, water and nuclear services.
It spent 100-120 million British pounds per year on acquisitions between 2007 and 2010, rising to 261 million pounds in 2011, mostly on smaller purchases.
“We still have some 500 million pounds of cash left and the primary use continues to be acquisitions,” said Brikho. “Now, there is quite a big discrepancy between earnings, the valuations companies are traded at and the share price.”
“This is an additional opportunity for AMEC to use its cash through acquisitions. We believe in 2012 they are going to be larger than in 2011