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Fisher Offshore hit by delays and financial woes at one of its customers

One of JFD's submarine rescue vessels.
One of JFD's submarine rescue vessels.

Aberdeenshire firm Fisher Offshore has been through a “frustrating” year, its Cumbrian owner said today.

Shares in James Fisher & Sons (JFS) plummeted nearly 26% to 370.5p after it also reported a sharp drop in profits.

The share price slump wiped nearly £65m off the group’s market value.

JFS said Fisher Offshore, which provides decommissioning services to the oil and gas industry, suffered from projects being delayed at short notice during the second half of last year.

The Oldmeldrum subsidiary’s 2021 profits were also hit by the financial distress of one of its clients, the parent revealed.

But demand for decommissioning services continued to grow, generating a 13% increase in revenue to £8 million at the subsidiary last year, Barrow-based JFS said.

Another of the group’s north-east businesses, Westhill-based JFD, had “mixed results” amid subdued demand for its diving equipment.

Work continued on JFD’s big long-term projects, with three submarine rescue vessels (SRVs) and a 1,640ft saturation diving spread “all progressing well towards final milestones”.

JFD rebreathing apparatus.

The group added: “One of the SRVs was delivered to its Korean customer in December and only relatively minor work is required in 2022 to complete all other projects, triggering final payment milestones.

“The business is looking to secure new projects during 2022, with a strong sales pipeline, although with no new orders in hand, the projects side of the business is at a cyclical low point.

“Demand for diving equipment was subdued during 2021 as many customers had fewer divers in the water, largely due to Covid-19 restrictions, and deferred spend on new equipment.”

JFD was created in 2014 through the merger of James Fisher Defence and subsea equipment specialist Divex.

The business also includes the National Hyperbaric Centre, in Aberdeen, which Cumbria-based JFS acquired in 2015 in a deal that was said at the time to be potentially worth £4.5 million.

Technology on trial at the National Hyperbaric Centre in Aberdeen.

JFS’s other businesses in the north-east include RMSpumptools and Scantech Offshore.

The group said RMSpumptools, which is also based in Oldmeldrum, saw strong demand for its “market-leading” artificial lift products, which both prolong the useful life of oil wells and prevent the unwanted escape of methane gas during production.

It added: “As the oil industry increasingly focuses on minimising its environmental impact, we believe demand for RMS products will continue to increase.”

We underestimated the headwinds being faced by some of our businesses.”

Eoghan O’Lionaird, chief executive, James Fisher & Sons.

Eoghan O’Lionaird, the 175-year-old group‘s chief executive, said 2021 was a “challenging and disappointing” 12 months overall.

Revenue was 4.7% lower than in 2020 at £494.1m and pre-tax profits slumped nearly 45% to £29m.

Mr O’Lionaird added: “We experienced ongoing disruption from the global pandemic, our markets did not recover at expected rates, and we underestimated the headwinds being faced by some of our businesses.”

Mike Salter, a well-kent face in the north-east, is stepping down from the JFS board.

Meanwhile, FJS said Banchory-based Mike Salter would step down as a non-executive director of the group at its annual general meeting in May, having served nine years on the board.

The group added: “He has made a considerable contribution to James Fisher, and his experience of the marine and oil and gas services industries will be much missed.”

Mr Salter’s past boardroom roles include stints as chairman of Red Spider Technology, Asco Group and the Scottish Chambers of Commerce.

He was chief operating officer at Aberdeen-based Abbot Group – now KCA Deutag – from 1997-2007.

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