Belgian construction giant Besix acquires major shareholding in Watpac


Belgian construction giant Besix has purchased a major stake in Australian

Watpac, acquiring a 15.6 per cent shareholding (approximately 28.8 million shares) from long-term Watpac Board member and major shareholder, Mr Kevin Seymour AM, and other parties.

The two companies have also signed a Memorandum of Understanding to investigate future joint venture opportunities.

Besix Group was part of the joint venture that delivered the world’s tallest tower, the 800 metre ‘Burj Kahlifa’ (above), in Dubai in 2010.

The share agreement remains subject to approval from the Foreign Investment Review Board and is scheduled to settle within the next 30 days.

Mr Seymour will not retain any shareholding in the company and has advised of his intention to retire from the Watpac Board in September 2013.

Watpac Chair, Chris Freeman AM, said the transaction is a significant endorsement of Watpac’s skills, strategy and industry leadership by Belgium’s largest and most successful construction group.

“Besix Group was founded in Belgium in 1909 and is one of the world’s largest privately-owned construction groups, operating in 17 countries in Europe, Africa and the Middle East and employing 20,000 people worldwide,” Mr Freeman said.

“The company specialises in the construction of buildings, infrastructure, marine environments and sporting facilities, and has a forward order book totalling EUR 3.5 billion.

“Besix Group has been actively monitoring the Australian market for several years and ultimately chose to approach Watpac.

“The strategic alliance with Watpac provides Besix Group with a reliable partner with sophisticated local networks, a healthy balance sheet, diversified income stream and rigorous corporate governance.

“It also provides a platform for Besix Group to expand its international operations and increase its exposure to Australia’s construction sector.”

Mr Freeman said the Group’s strategic alliance with Besix Group complements Watpac’s strategy to deliver long-term, sustainable value to shareholders.

“Last year the Watpac Board and senior executive team commenced a strategic business review and capital management program to ensure the Group is in the strongest possible position to enhance our profitability and deliver healthy shareholder returns,” he said.

“Implementation of this program is well underway and will continue as planned in the year ahead.”

Mr Freeman said the shareholding transaction was a tremendous legacy for Mr Seymour to impart and speaks to his enduring commitment to Watpac’s success and evolution, which he has helped guide for the past 17 years as a Board member and major shareholder.

Watpac Chief Executive Officer Martin Monro said Watpac and Besix Group have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to enable the companies to look at working together on future joint venture opportunities.

“The agreement will enable Watpac to retain its unique Australian heritage and local networks, while accessing the expertise and reach of an international industry leader,” Mr Monro said.

“This is a partnership that will create opportunities for our business, our people and our shareholders. Both companies share similar values and operating cultures, with safety, environment and good governance an intrinsic part of how we do business.

“We also share a number of operating synergies, specialising in the construction of sports stadiums and athletics facilities, residential and commercial towers and major infrastructure.

“Besix Group’s large-scale infrastructure experience provides an opportunity for Watpac to grow future work volumes in this sector and further enhance the skills, training and development of our people.”

Established in 1983, Watpac is a listed national construction, mining services and property development group with operations in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia.  In 2013 Watpac is focused on the delivery of more than $1.4 billion work in hand across the company’s contracting businesses.

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