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Mergers and acquisitions are engrained in the oil and gas industry’s DNA. But while traditionally such activity in the North East has focused on international expansion, often driven by customer demand, the oil price collapse has cultivated a much more dynamic mergers & acquisitions (M&A) environment.

Such dynamism is evidenced by the number of UK oil and gas service companies increasingly considering diversification strategies into new industry sectors such as industrial, power generation, renewables and even more broadly.

Diversifying into new industry sectors and markets can help organisations to insulate themselves against continued oil and gas cyclicality, by opening access to a new client base and potentially unlocking economies of scale.

A snapshot of activity over the past two years shows how the M&A landscape is changing and organisations are succeeding – EnerMech, Oceaneering and Wood plc to name but a few.

These organisations, and others like them, have developed diversification strategies in terms of the services they provide and the markets they are competing in.  Either through strategic acquisitions or organic growth – or often both - it’s possible for companies to extend their capabilities and broaden the sectors they serve, whereby ensuring their revenues are less reliant on the oil and gas sector.

While the potential benefits of diversification seem relatively straightforward, delivering this strategy and executing transactions in an entirely different market can be anything but. Understanding the different business models and contracting practices applied is critical to assessing whether a business is well placed to venture into a new market.   

Diversification involves careful consultation and assessment that should ideally be based upon key factors, including: potential industry growth; understanding of commercial/contractual risks; ability to cross- sell services; and opportunity to leverage extended geographical footprint.

Proving expertise in a new sector can also be challenging which is why M&A can offer an attractive route to market.

Careful integration planning is key to successful diversification as well as significant investment of time and energy. To unlock the full value from an acquisition, it is essential to establish the right team that can design the operating model with full access to information from both companies.

These deals typically create value from overhead cost reductions and the benefits that come from bringing together complementary portfolios. It provides more resources, better skills and talent base while reducing commercial risks, building on contacts and giving the all-important competitive edge.  For larger organisations, it also allows for more specialisation, which drives functional excellence.

Scotland’s oil and gas industry is renowned for its know-how, technology and innovation.  Such assets have considerable potential in helping to solve the challenges of a range of other industries, particularly those emerging sectors where processes are still being optimised and supply chains are not yet well established.

As the energy transition evolves, so too does the opportunity for services companies to expand into the broader industrials sector and service the power generation and distribution market.

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Shaun Reynolds, Partner, Transaction Services, Aberdeen 

Shaun has led the transaction services team in Deloitte’s Aberdeen office since setting it up in 2009. He became a partner in 2018 and specialises in advising clients in the UK’s oil and gas industry including the upstream, midstream and oilfield services sectors.

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