Murray & Roberts offers to buy Clough

South African construction company, Murray & Roberts on Tuesday (30th July 2013) offered to pay A$407 million for the remaining 38% of Australian engineering firm Clough Ltd.

Currently, the group has a stake of 61.6% in the firm and the offer constitutes  a strategic move to increase exposure in the East. The new deal would be an offering of A$1.46 a share, a premium of 30.9% and valuing the stake at A$449 million ($407 million). If shareholders approve the offer, the acquisition would be funded with existing cash.

The South African construction industry has experienced a difficult time within local borders with many of the larger construction companies increasingly looking to do more business in faster growing sub-Saharan countries. Murray & Roberts, which is a global operation, would like to increase its presence in Australia and Southeast Asia with a vision of becoming a leading diversified construction group.

Currently, Clough contributes 37% to Murray & Roberts revenue and there has been a 75% jump in revenue to R6.3bn, been helped by favorable market conditions and further enhanced by a weakening rand. Clough's order book was 77% cost reimbursable and 94% leveraged to the LNG (liquefied natural gas) sector. The firm also recently acquired e2o limited, a leading provider of specialized commissioning, completion and hazardous area inspection services to the energy and resources sectors.

Murray & Roberts has had a difficult time of late with a fine of R309 million for its involvement in collusion over contracts during the Football World Cup. The South Africa Competition Commission investigated 140 projects in both private and public sectors over a four year period and reached a settlement with 15 companies. There is also a pending case with the UAE Supreme Court regarding Dubai International Airport and the group expects a settlement to be concluded by the end of 2013.

Murray and Roberts has managed to maintain its order book during difficult trading conditions, reporting a R262m interim profit compared with a R528m loss in the prior corresponding period, and a R736m loss at year-end.

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