June 25, 2019 / 6:29 AM / 21 days ago

Petrofac loses out on $10 billion in contracts as SFO probe drags on

(Reuters) - Oilfield services provider Petrofac lost out on $10 billion (8 billion pounds) worth of contracts globally due to a probe by Britain’s Serious Fraud Office into dealings in Saudi Arabia and Iraq, its finance chief said on Tuesday.

Petrofac shares, which have lost nearly half of their value since the SFO first announced its probe in 2017 as part of a wider investigation into Monaco-based oil and gas consultancy Unaoil, fell as much as 6.4%.

In February, the SFO said Petrofac’s former head of sales, David Lufkin, had pleaded guilty to 11 counts of bribery related to oil deals in Iraq and Saudi Arabia. The SFO said it was continuing its investigation into Petrofac’s use of agents in jurisdictions including the two countries.

The British company was in the process of bidding for contracts when the SFO announced charges against Lufkin.

“The timing of those bids coincided with the SFO’s announcement... that inevitably ... raised concerns amongst all stakeholders,” Chief Financial Officer Alastair Cochran said on a call with analysts on its trading update.

He said the announcement led to the loss of an estimated $2 billion to $3 billion worth of orders from Saudi Arabia and Iraq in the first half of the year and some $10 billion worth of deals were not considered by clients.

The company - which designs, builds, operates and maintains oil and gas facilities - has major operations in the Middle East and contracts from the region are critical to operations.

The projects named in the SFO’s statement in February included Petrofac’s engineering contracts for the Petro Rabigh petrochemical plant, partly owned by Saudi Aramco, and Aramco’s Jazan refinery in 2012.

HANDICAPPED

While the company has not been charged, the investigation has hammered its shares over the past two years.

Credit Suisse analysts said that while the SFO resolution will be a potential major catalyst for Petrofac, the bigger worry for investors would be the company’s license to operate across its core Middle East markets.

“Petrofac is currently handicapped by not seeing any awards from either Saudi (Arabia) or Iraq in the first half of 2019 and we have limited expectation for the second half,” JP Morgan analysts said.

Saudi Arabia and Iraq accounted for 17% of overall contract revenue in 2018.

The company said it managed to sign multiple contracts, booking $1.7 billion in new orders so far this year. In 2018 as a whole, Petrofac’s new order intake was $5.04 billion.

“We continue to enjoy excellent relationships with those clients and indeed with all our clients across our portfolio ... I want to make quite clear that we have not been banned from any territory in our portfolio,” Cochran said.

The company said trading was in line with expectations and it was well-positioned for the second half with good revenue visibility and high levels of tendering activity.

Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka and Shariq Khan in Bengaluru; editing by Bernard Orr and Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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