The ASCO Group doubled its presence in Canada with the acquisition of three Alberta oilfield outfits, the Scottish oil and gas services company announced on September 24.
ASCO has brought oilfield logistics companies EJR Trucking and Docktor Oilfield Transport into the fold, along with oilfield waste management firm Manatokan Oilfield Logistics, under the banner of their Canadian oilfield services company, MOKO, which is also based in Alberta.
The mergers have increased ASCO’s Canadian workforce from 130 personnel to 260 employees.
“The companies and the strong reputation they had in the marketplace and with the oil companies themselves,” said ASCO Canada president Fabian Walsh, describing the factors that attracted ASCO to their new acquisitions.
“The quality of their people,” he added, also noting that the geographical locations of their operations were a factor.
“ASCO, globally, has a very large desire to grow the business in Canada,” Walsh continued, remarking that the services already offered by those three companies complement ASCO’s existing operations in Alberta very well.
Walsh indicated that any ensuing changes at those companies should be seen in a positive light.
“The management in the companies will not be changing,” he said
“And we’re going to grow the businesses,” he added. “We didn’t buy them to be stagnant. Our intent is to grow these businesses and our own presence in North America.”
Walsh believes that ASCO can help the growth of the businesses they have acquired in a similar fashion as to how those companies can help ASCO.
“We’re one of the largest logistics providers around the globe,” he explained. “Our structure and our market awareness – all part of being an international company working with the major operators around the globe. We’re able to tap into more financial backing to support growth. And we’ll open up opportunities for people working there to further their own careers within the context of a larger company. And they’ll be able offer their clients a more diverse service offering. And it gives them connection to a wider client base.
“They have clients in Canada that we have not had experience with,” he continued.
Walsh described the mergers as a perfect marriage.
“The things they were doing and are doing are exactly what we wanted to be doing in conjunction with our other service offerings in Canada right now,” he said.
ASCO is also hoping these acquisitions will help them expand their presence in western Canada beyond the borders of Alberta, particularly at a time when there is so much talk about Bakken light oil in Saskatchewan and the potential for liquefied natural gas (LNG) in British Columbia.
“Our focus mainly over the last six or eight months has been Alberta,” said Walsh. “But we’re looking throughout western Canada – Saskatchewan, Alberta, B.C. – and down even to parts of the United States for other opportunities.
“The focus has been mainly within the oil sands,” he continued, “but we’re continuing to look via market research to determine where else there would be a good opportunity for us.”
Walsh admitted that additional acquisitions in western Canada could be a possibility, but not until 2013.
“Although we have more or less said we’re finished on the expansions through acquisitions this year, we are not ruling out potentially acquiring more companies early in the new year,” he said.
ASCO first set up shop in Canada with expansions into Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador in 1995.
“We’ve been small scale here in Alberta for the last three to five years,” said Walsh.
“So, we’ve had a lot of time to research the market and understand it,” he continued. “But … we now feel we’re ready to take the plunge. And being a Scottish company, we have the experience and the knowledge gained in what we’ve done in the North Sea market and other areas of international expansion.
“The operators in the North Sea and the other parts of the world that we operate in are the very [same] operators that are here,” he added.
Walsh also feels that Scottish companies are a good fit in the Canadian oil and gas industry because the two sides share a very similar culture.
“A lot of the people we’re actually encountering over here have been working in Scotland with the oil companies,” he added. “And now we’re actually seeing a large influx of Canadians into the Scottish [industry] and different parts of the world.”
Interestingly, the oil and gas industries in both Canada and Scotland are facing a labour shortage, but Walsh suggests that a Scottish – and an international – service sector presence in Canada could help alleviate that problem by allowing workers to move from one location to another.
“Right now, across the globe, we have about 2000-plus people working for ASCO,” said Walsh. “And over half of those people are presently working outside of the [United Kingdom]. So, we tend to promote internally first. And we look for opportunities, especially for our middle management, and even lower level people, to take the opportunity to take an international career on to advance themselves.”
“We are, at present, exploring opportunities to see who is available to other parts of the world that can come in and help us complement the services presently being provided to the Canadian marketplace,” he continued.
“But, at the same time, we’re looking to see what expertise we have in Canada that we can deploy to other parts of the world to see if things we’re doing in Canada can help them improve elsewhere.”