Arabtec CEO steps down, CFO appointed acting head

Contractor’s Q1 profit halves as pace of new awards slows

Image used for illustrative purpose. An Arabtec logo is seen on buildings under construction in the Marina area of Dubai in this picture taken November 28, 2009.

Image used for illustrative purpose. An Arabtec logo is seen on buildings under construction in the Marina area of Dubai in this picture taken November 28, 2009.

REUTERS/Steve Crisp

Hamish Tyrwhitt, the CEO appointed to turn around the fortunes of the UAE contracting group Arabtec, has stepped down from the firm, according to a note accompanying its Q1 results.

The company said in a filing to the Dubai Financial Market that the board had accepted the resignation of Tyrwhitt and appointed chief financial officer Peter Pollard as its acting CEO.

Tyrwhitt, who was previously CEO of Australian construction company Leighton Holdings, was appointed CEO of Arabtec in November 2016 to lead a restructuring of the organisation after it had endured a torrid run, which saw it lose money in nine straight quarters, accumulating losses of 4.6 billion UAE dirhams ($1.25 billion) by December 31, 2016.

He led a three-year turnaround strategy which involved the company cancelling 4.6 billion dirhams worth of shares to extinguish its losses and then launch a 1.5 billion dirham rights issue to inject new capital into the business. The rights issue was underwritten by Aabar Investments, part of Abu Dhabi state-owned investment fund Mubadala.

Mubadala-owned entities now hold around 37.7 percent of Arabtec’s shares, market data shows.

Sources told Zawya that Tyrwhitt, who also stepped down from Depa (an interiors contracting specialist listed on Nasdaq Dubai in which Arabtec is the largest shareholder) in March, has been headhunted to lead the contracting arm of a privately-owned UAE family firm. However, when contacted by Zawya he said he is not currently in the UAE and has no confirmed plans.

“I’m in no rush to start the next chapter,” he said.

Arabtec’s first quarter results statement show that net profit fell 50 percent in the first quarter of 2019 to 31.8 million dirhams, down from 63.6 million dirhams in Q1 2018. Revenue also declined by 16 percent year-on-year to 2 billion dirhams.

The company said margins had contracted due to lower revenue, which it attributed to a slowdown in awards in the construction sector along with legacy projects closing out. It also recognised a 7.8 million dirham loss through its share in Depa, which declared a 123.5 million dirham loss last year.

Arabtec’s statement also said that it had made progress in reducing the amount of debt on its balance sheet, and was progressing with a refinancing of group debt.

Acting group CEO Pollard said in a statement: “We continue to focus selectively on countries that offer a strong, sustainable pipeline of construction, infrastructure and industrial opportunities including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and Egypt.”

The company said that its backlog at the end of the first quarter stood at 14.8 billion dirhams.

(Reporting by Michael Fahy; Editing by Mily Chakrabarty)


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