Brambles Limited announces oil and gas expansion plans

What: Brambles Limited (ASX: BXB) has announced the formation of a joint venture (JV). The agreement will see Brambles combine its oil and gas container solutions businesses with peer Hoover Container Solutions.

The JV business will be known as Hoover-Ferguson Group (HFG) and will operate under a 50%/50% arrangement with both firms having equal board representation.

To equalise the ownership of the JV, Brambles is set to receive US$75 million. Brambles also noted that it would take an impairment charge of US$38 million against the value of the assets set to be rolled into the JV.

So What: According to the ASX release, combining these businesses “will create the second-largest global provider of container logistics solutions to the Oil & Gas and Chemicals sectors, delivering enhanced scale, capabilities to support customers worldwide and substantial synergy opportunities.”

HFG will have operations across key energy regions including North America, North Sea, Latin America, Middle East, Australia and South-East Asia, with the business operating a fleet of over 110,000 high quality rental units.

JV revenues on a pro-forma basis (before synergies) for the 12 months ending 31 December 2015 would have been US$217 million with earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of US$86 million.

Now What: It’s great to see Brambles being proactive in enhancing its position during the current crisis which is engulfing the energy sector. With EBITDA approaching US$100 million, HFG looks set to have meaningful scale.

This JV is a reminder of the benefits that a strong company can achieve during the bottom of a cycle. Operating with a conservative balance sheet can provide the firepower to pounce on opportunities as they appear.

In contrast, many energy sector service businesses including Worleyparsons Limited (ASX: WOR) and MMA Offshore Ltd (ASX: MRM) have arguably failed to capitalise on the attractive investment opportunities prevalent in recent months.

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