Oil rig tycoon nets £265m in London listing

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The Independent Online

Steven Lamprell, the high-living British oil services tycoon based in Dubai, has made £265m after selling a majority stake in his company through a London listing.

The company, Lamprell plc, builds, repairs and maintains offshore oil rigs for companies in the Arabian Gulf region, where it has a dominant market position. The oil services sector has enjoyed a boom in demand as oil producers have scrambled in recent years to take advantage of the oil price by ramping up exploration and output.

The float, on the Alternative Investment Market, valued the business - 100 per cent owned by Mr Lamprell - at £390m.

Mr Lamprell, 56, founded the company in 1974 and took up residency in Dubai shortly afterwards. In Dubai he is also known for his racehorses, polo-playing and throwing parties in his yacht. The flotation will make him one of the richest expatriates in the Emirate.

After yesterday's listing, Mr Lamprell, president of the company, has a 32.3 per cent left, worth £126m. He has not been involved in the day-to-day running of the company for 10 years but has acted as an ambassador for it, in particular fronting Lamprell's relations with the royal family and the bureaucracy in the United Arab Emirates. He will continue in this role but will have no position on the board.

Lamprell's growth over the past three years has been helped by adding additional capacity with the opening of a new facility in Dubai, in the Jebel Ali Free Zone. The company also has facilities in Port Khalid in the Emirate of Sharjah.

Revenues almost tripled from 2003 to 2005, increasing from $70.4m (£39m) to $205.5m. In this period, operating profits have increased fivefold, from $5.6m to $28.7m. Lamprell shares closed down 1p at 194p.

Peter Whitbread, Lamprell's chief executive and chairman, said he was surprised at the downbeat perception of market prospects that he had encountered among London fund managers. "The nervousness in the investment community does not reflect [reality of] the position in the Middle East. For us, we are in a tremendously buoyant position, which is long term," he said.

He added that the huge investment programmes in Saudi Arabia and Qatar were not dependent on the oil price. The company also sees growth coming through as a result of its increasing focus on providing deep-water facilities - oil companies have had to turn to deeper water, as easier deposits in shallow water have already been exploited.