Dutch group picks off The EB

Dutch group IHC Merwede has taken over The Engineering Business (EB), one of the UK’s best design, engineering and construction outfits serving the needs of the offshore industry.

While the deal – details have not been disclosed – will assure the financial futures of the four-man team of engineers led by managing director Dr Tony Trapp in 1997 and benefit the 70 or so staff on share options, this is yet another example of a British company falling into foreign hands. Today, EB employs 150 people (predominantly graduate professional engineers) and has a current order book exceeding £60million to be delivered to the offshore industry over the course of the next three years.

This is a record for the Northumbria-based company that particularly specialises in designing, building and supplying, “elegant” engineering solutions for the offshore oil&gas, submarine telecom, defence and offshore renewables industries.

Trapp said of the deal: “EB can continue its rapid growth, providing long-term security for the dynamic staff team, with significant benefits for the north-east of England, home to a highly talented supply chain.

“Under the IHC Merwede banner, EB is assured of an exciting, creative and rewarding future. Our team will be strengthened with IHC Merwede board members and we are looking forward to working within the IHC Merwede Group in the coming months and years.

“We are delighted that, thanks to an internal share-option scheme set up some time ago, 70 of our team – the people who have been loyal to EB over a number of years – will also gain financially from this deal, sharing 20% of the proceeds. We could not have achieved what we have done without their input and it is a real pleasure that they gain substantial benefit from the sale of the company.”

IHC Merwede is a market leader in the construction of specialist dredging equipment and complex custom-built offshore vessels and is probably the natural parent for EB. A long-term, stable future seems assured.

No sooner had the takeover been announced than a large new contract was announced – construction of a fully integrated pipelay system for Technip’s new-build 194m pipelay vessel, with delivery set for 2010.

Again, the value of the deal has not been disclosed, but it ranks among the largest yet bagged by EB and will lead to fresh jobs at the company.

Trapp said: “In recent years, we have built a number of large component pieces of equipment for pipelay vessels; now, bringing all our expertise together for this integrated solution marks the next stage in EB development. We are working very closely with the engineering team from Technip on this bespoke system and this is exactly the sort of stimulating customer relationship on which we thrive.”

The ship will be built by STX Heavy Industries (Korea) and will be brought to Tyneside for fitting out with the pipelay package. The vessel is designed to carry 5,600 tonnes of reeled pipe and to lay it in 3,000m water depth, with 450 tonnes top tension.