The challenges of working in new territories can be wide and varied, from different cultures and approaches to work, through to exchange rates and dealing with government red tape. For Greg Denton, CEO of WorleyParsons South Africa, these issues were exacerbated by his own need, as a New Zealander, to come to terms with life on a new continent.
Thankfully the transition was greatly assisted by the knowledge and structure of one of the world’s largest engineering and project management delivery companies.
“We are one of the big five companies in the EPCM (Engineering, Procurement and Construction Management) arena and globally we have been particularly strong serving the hydrocarbons (oil and gas) sector,” Denton describes.
“We have 41,000 employees worldwide and we are listed on the Australian Stock Exchange as WOR. WorleyParsons has had a presence in Africa since the seventies and came to South Africa in 2008 through a joint venture with Pangaea Petroleum. We subsequently bought KV3, a leading South African Engineering Consulting firm.
“The acquisition of KV3 saw us inherit over 900 employees and the new company became 70 per cent owned by WorleyParsons and 30 per cent owned by trust, whose beneficiaries are previously disadvantaged employees,” states Denton.
“Part of the challenge of entering a new country is to understand the complexities of the territory and WorleyParsons has been a part of the new South Africa and its economic transformation since 1994. Even so, the structure we have in place today took a couple of years of planning and I feel that the new ownership structure is one of our great strengths and complements South Africa’s changing culture.”
“Our new structure is very efficient and involves our employees, which has been a real spin-off benefit. I am extremely proud of our statistics but what is truly important is the transformation of our business and the opportunities that this creates for everyone,” he adds.
WorleyParsons’ head office is in Pretoria with other offices across the country. Together with the recent acquisition of TWP business from Basil Read, total employees in South Africa will increase to over 2,000.
Whilst the company has long been established in countries across the continent including Nigeria, Ghana, Namibia and Equatorial Guinea, its ventures into the sub-Sahara region are continuing to grow, with Mozambique set to offer plenty of opportunity, as Denton explains:
“Our strategy is to grow our business in South Africa and the global company has identified the sub-Sahara as a high growth region. WorleyParsons is gearing up to provide project delivery and engineering services to the large hydrocarbons companies in the area and there are plenty of other opportunities too.”
These opportunities are varied but essentially the company operates in four markets: the hydrocarbons industry sees WorleyParsons work alongside the largest gas and coal to liquid producers, companies involved in clean fuels technology and building pipelines.
The company has also established a strong reputation within the Minerals, Metals and Chemicals industry and in South Africa it has become a supplier of services to the coal and iron ore industries, providing feasibility studies and front end engineering solutions.
Whilst these are two very established markets for the business, Denton says that there remains huge potential in the power and infrastructure work currently underway as South Africa’s Government aims to modernize services for all people.
“Perhaps our main business in this region has been our infrastructure and environmental services,” he says. “We provide inner city infrastructure services for electricity, water, road building, railway building and water treatment plants.
“Developing power infrastructure has been a particularly busy area for us in South Africa and we have carried out work on power stations, power lines and the distribution of power to settlements which can be remote. We currently play a role in Kusile and Medupi Projects. At Medupi we run the Soils Test Laboratory and at Kusile we are involved in a number of engineering and logistics studies around the road and rail infrastructure.
“Our environmental business is equally important and provides customers with approvals and recommendations on a raft of issues including social impact, ecology and flora and fauna investigations.”
Resources prove to be a key contributor to WorleyParsons’ success. Dealing with Government tenders can be highly competitive and Denton believes that the company’s highly-qualified people, varied experiences and ability to find value in projects are winning new business in South Africa. What also gives WorleyParsons the competitive edge is its understanding of the role of infrastructure to unlock opportunities and economic emancipation of many people in South Africa. The company’s capability to build infrastructure from scratch supports its involvement in construction work which can necessitate the installation of power or roads.
Presently, Denton says it is an exciting time to be involved on the cusp of a developing nation – and he is not referring to South Africa. The company’s latest opportunities lie in Mozambique, where resources are not as advanced as South Africa:
“The opportunities [in Mozambique] are compelling. The country has enjoyed stability for more than two decades and has attracted the big oil and gas companies in the north-west. There are also iron ore and coal reserves, whilst offshore, there is a significant gas resource.
“In Mozambique, the challenge will be complex but perhaps not quite in the social sense, as we are dealing with a country at the early stages of development. Our challenge will be to create a business and business culture and to nurture local talent. We have a huge focus on training at all levels here in South Africa. We run university programmes and student sponsorships and provide on-the-job support for our team. Worley Parsons has a special focus on education, including a bursary scheme.
“WorleyParsons is tremendously successful and we are now the engineer of choice for the South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL) and have begun work on Sasol Mining’s’ Shondoni Coal Mine Project and whilst fluctuating global mineral prices impact local mining operations short term, we remain very optimistic for the future,” he concludes.
“We have Global knowledge with Local delivery.”