Kentz bosses worth millions after market greets flotation
The Clonmel-based Kentz engineering group began its first day of trading yesterday on London's Alternative Investment Market, making paper millionaires out of chief executive Hugh O'Donnell and executive director Thomas Kelly.
They now own stakes in the firm worth about £9.3m (€12.5m) each after shares in the firm closed up yesterday about 7pc higher than their flotation price of £1.15.
Over 800,000 of the firm's shares were traded.
Mr O'Donnell said he was extremely pleased with the response to the flotation, especially after the overall negative sentiment towards markets in recent months. The long-awaited public offering valued the firm at £135m (€180m).
"We see tremendous upside value in Kentz and over the past number of years we have kept on delivering," he said.
Kentz's clients are mainly in the oil and gas, petrochemical and mining sectors, where it provides mechanical, electrical, controls and instrumentation engineering, construction and management services to blue-chip companies such as Shell, Chevron and Mittal Steel.
The company's majority shareholder is Kerbet, which is owned by Malaysia's Peremba Group, and over 80 senior managers working with Kentz.
Mr O'Donnell said that the £66.5m (€89m) raised by Kentz will be used to fund an acquisition, most likely by the end of the year.
"We've short-listed four acquisition targets that we're interested in, but what's important to us is that we create synergy," he said.
"We want to buy something that's going to be earnings enhancing from day one.'' It is understood that up to €75m of the flotation proceeds have been earmarked for acquisition purposes.
Mr O'Donnell said that Kentz wants to expand its interests in the Middle East, and also in Canada., where vast reserves of difficult-to-refine oil sands are present in Alberta.
Mr O'Donnell spoke to the Irish Independent from Sakhalin Island, off the east coast of Russia, where the temperature had just plummeted to minus 25 degrees.
Kentz is assisting both Shell and ExxonMobil with two separate multi-billion dollar oil projects on the island.
It has also operated in South Africa, Trinidad and Qatar, and undertaken work in Ireland at Waterford Regional Hospital and the Hermitage clinic in Dublin.
"The flotation proceeds allow us to undertake an acquisition that will move us up the value chain," he explained.
"We want to be involved in projects that are in the $300m to $500m price range, such as oil terminals."
KENTZ started in 1919 at Gurtnafleur, Clonmel, Co Tipperary. Originally MF Kent, it became one of Ireland's largest engineering firms.
It borrowed its name from Michael Francis Kent, a local electrician who had set up a firm in the area. At the time, each Irish town provided its own electricity generator and Kent received contracts to instal street lighting and to wire public buildings.
At one stage it was the largest company in Ireland, but by 1963 the company employed just six people and developed a new strategy. Gus Kearney became its chairman and chief executive and by the late eighties the company was wholly resurgent. Its projects were varied but included helping to build 25 nuclear fallout shelters in Baghdad during the Iran-Iraq war.
In 1992, it acquired a Clonmel plant, adding a further 200 jobs to its expanding workforce.
By 1993, MF Kent was in trouble, but the Peremba group stepped in and saved the company.
Today it employs more than 7,000 people, operates in 20 countries and last year made a pre-tax profit of $25m on revenues of $370m.