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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

GCC’s Byrne Group eyes new acquisitions and mulls sukuk after Dh1bn buy-out

Equipment rental firm plans expansion in Asia and Africa after deal with Hong Kong-based investment fund

UAE - Apr 23, 2018 - Sheikh Hamad Al Sulaiman, CEO of Byrne Group, UAE - Navin Khianey for The National
UAE - Apr 23, 2018 - Sheikh Hamad Al Sulaiman, CEO of Byrne Group, UAE - Navin Khianey for The National

Byrne Equipment Rental, a Dubai-based equipment rental company servicing the construction, industrial, oil and gas and events industries, is in advanced talks to acquire two GCC-based companies. It is also eyeing a clutch of other deals as it ramps up expansion plans following a Dh1 billion buy-out led by its chairman this week.

“In the past two to three years we have seen sustained profitability in some markets and average [annual] growth of 25 per cent and I am very positive about the year ahead,” Byrne’s chairman and chief executive Hamad Al Sulaiman told The National. “We don’t really have competition in the region.”

Byrne considers itself a "one-stop shop" for equipment rental in the GCC, from temporary buildings for events and construction sites, to industrial equipment and power generation facilities.

It runs operations from its 17 plants and depots across the UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and several locations in Saudi Arabia including Makkah, Jeddah, Riyadh and Turaif.

On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia's Mr Al Sulaiman’s Itqan Investments, together with Tamar VPower Energy Fund, a vehicle jointly managed by Hong Kong-based power company VPower Group International, and Citic Pacific, the overseas arm of a diversified Chinese conglomerate, acquired Byrne Equipment Rental in a Dh1bn deal.

The deal incorporates other businesses within the Byrne Group, including Spacemaker, Byrne Technical Services and Byrne Medical Equipment Rental. It brings Byrne’s total headcount to 1,500 staff and this is expected to grow to 2,500 in the next two years.

“The acquisition will support Byrne’s plans to grow into the Asian market and replicate the success the company has achieved in the GCC region,” Mr Al Sulaiman said.

The Asian shareholders’ expertise in the mega-power (engine-based electricity generation) industry will also help Byrne expand into the GCC’s mega-power sector, the statement added.

One of the targeted firms for acquisition this year is in the solar power sector and the other is in oil and gas, Mr Al Sulaiman told The National at Byrne’s office in Dubai. He said the group is in early stage talks with other companies from the region and there is no limit to the size of any deal struck – provided the acquisition complements and adds value to Byrne’s activities.

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The group has capital in place for the next two to three years but may consider a sukuk issue to finance the planned growth of its business in the medium term, in particular two mega-projects it is bidding on at present. “We are under-leveraged, so funding is widely available to us,” the chairman said.

Asia is the key target market for an expanded Byrne Group, as it looks to capitalise on an increasing number of major projects under development on the continent as well as high forecast growth, particularly in China.

However, there are also plans to enter Africa in the coming years, particularly in Egypt and Kenya, where there are sizeable oil and gas industries, Mr Al Sulaiman said. The group wants to expand its activities in the oil and gas equipment rental sector.

In the GCC, Byrne plans to commence operations in a further region of Saudi Arabia, Jubail. Expansion into Europe is not on the cards – other than Eurasian markets with sizeable oil and gas industries such as Azerbaijan – according to the chairman, because the equipment rental market is already competitive.

“We are bringing the operating lease model to the region,” he said. “In Europe, roughly 80 per cent of all utilised equipment is either leased or rented so there’s not much we can do there. In the GCC it’s not more than 8 per cent, and in the wider Middle East it is much lower than that.”

Stabilising oil prices after a three-year slump are providing a much-needed boost to many economies across the world, including the GCC, but Mr Al Sulaiman said he would be confident of Byrne’s growth trajectory “even without such an uplift”.