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Sparrows Group on growth curve after ‘exceptionally challenging’ year

A Sparrows Group technician at the firm's fabrication workshop in Aberdeen.

Crane engineering firm Sparrows Group is gearing up for international expansion and further diversification despite posting wider annual losses.

Aberdeen-based Sparrows said the “robust” but weaker bottom-line performance in 2020 came as turnover fell by 11.6%, reflecting the impact of Covid-19 on its markets.

Last year’s £183.9 million turnover total was down from just over £208m the year before.

Pre-tax losses widened to £34.3m in the latest period, from £29.4m previously.

The group – a specialist in offshore lifting and mechanical handling services to the energy industry – highlighted underlying earnings before interest, taxes and amortisation of £19.5 million last year, down from £23.1m in 2019.

We’re excited to now be in a period of rapid growth to meet demand across all sectors we operate in.”

Stewart Mitchell, chief executive, Sparrows Group.

Sparrows said its global growth strategy had positioned it to make the most of overseas investments, opportunities for further expansion, and diversification into the renewables and industrial sectors.

And it reported an upswing in its current trading year, prompting a global recruitment drive.

The group was forced to reduce its headcount last year – its latest accounts show the average monthly workforce shrank to 1,703 people, from 1,749 in the previous 12 months.

But more than 100 new jobs have been filled in its Aberdeen operation this year amid an improvement in market conditions.

Chief executive Stewart Mitchell said: “We have worked collaboratively with our global customer base to continue providing essential services, safely and efficiently.

“Previous investment in cloud-based IT services allowed us to react quickly to a changing landscape and minimise disruption, while still providing first-class service and support to our energy and industrials customers.”

He added: “Despite the global pandemic, the results we’ve seen demonstrate the resilience of the business and we’re excited to now be in a period of rapid growth to meet demand across all sectors we operate in.

“Our strong performance during what has been an exceptionally challenging period is testament to our workforce and their ability to adapt and move ahead in the face of uncertainty.”

Sparrows Group chief executive Stewart Mitchell.

A continued increase in demand for its services has allowed Sparrows to forge ahead with its diversification into both the renewables and industrials sectors globally, resulting in significant investment in new facilities in Abu Dhabi, Kazakhstan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Australia and the US in 2021.

Burgeoning demand from mineral extraction and wider industrial markets has seen Sparrows’ headcount in Australia increase by more than 200% since the start of this year.

Bigger down under

The company recently moved into a new, 22,600sq ft complex and workshop in Perth, Western Australia, to accommodate a further 40 jobs in the final quarter of 2021.

In Kazakhstan, Sparrows has established a new 14,300sq ft facility for equipment repair and maintenance, including a training centre and workshop.

Elsewhere, the group has increased its Middle East footprint with substantial new facilities in Abu Dhabi and Qatar, as well as a new office in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia.

Sparrows Group’s new workshop in Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi.

In Abu Dhabi, 78,600sq ft premises are expected to house a team of 100, with the company adding more than 50 new roles.

And a new 53,800sq ft facility has been established in Doha, Qatar, for the maintenance and refurbishment of large components, including drilling equipment.

Sparrows, which is celebrating its 75th year, currently employs around 2,300 people across operations in the Americas, the Middle East, Europe, Asia and Australia.

The company was founded in 1946, in Bath, and is today owned by Jersey-registered Hawk Caledonia.

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