ASCO, the Aberdeen-based international oil and gas logistics specialist, has reported a successful 2008, but said this year would be challenging.
Finance director Ian Ross said yesterday the company was no different from anyone else and did not know what might happen in the next six months.
He said there was a lot of pressure in the system, but ASCO was doing its best to maintain activity and safeguard jobs.
Its payroll actually grew from 1,083 the year before to 1,494 in 2008, principally through the February 2008 acquisition of the Azerbaijan and Trinidad logistics units of Aberdeen-based CSM.
ASCO said operating profits for 2008 were in line with expectations at £17.2million compared with £18.3million for the 15 months to December 2007. Pre-tax profits, however, slid to £3.25million from £4.25million.
It said underlying activity levels were also in line with plan, while turnover rose from £385.9million to £451.9million as a result of unexpectedly high fuel sales. These are mainly “pass-through” sales and generate revenue, but do not impact on profits.
ASCO said its acquisition of the CSM businesses, which followed similar deals in Canada and Norway in 2007, was in line with its strategy to expand geographically. It also said 33% of profits were now generated from overseas operations, from 9% in 2007.
The company said its strong safety performance had continued and for the first time its core UK logistics business recorded no lost-time injuries in a year.
During the year, it renewed major logistics contracts with BP in Trinidad and Talisman in the UK plus a major waste-management deal with Shell in the UK.
Group chief executive Billy Allan said: “We faced three major contract renewals during 2008 and this put a significant percentage of our business at risk. The fact we were able to secure all three is testament to the quality of the service we provide.”
ASCO said its performance in 2008 was largely unaffected by the credit crunch and parallel fall in oil prices, however, chairman Mike Salter said: “The lower oil price has introduced cost pressures into our clients’ businesses and we are committed to working with them to reduce operating costs while maintaining service levels.
“Our management team have also taken a number of steps to make sure our own costs are aligned to activity and income levels.
“The group is in excellent shape for the future, and although 2009 will certainly be challenging, the longer-term prospects remain strong.
“For the next year, our focus will be on maintaining current performance levels, generating organic growth where we can, and making small bolt-on acquisitions.”