NOBODY would have thought that the sons of a former Prime Minister and his friend, Tan Sri Shamsuddin Kadir (the founder of Sapura Group), will one day end up creating one of Malaysia's biggest oil and gas service provider companies that is ranked fourth or fifth in the global market place.
Many did not even think they would end up as partners in the first place.
I am talking about Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed's son, Datuk Mokhzani Mahathir, and Shamsuddin's son, Datuk Seri Shahril Shamsuddin
Both the boys met when they were 13 and have been charting their own course in the business world all these years. Both were in the oil and gas services sector.
For this year, Shahril is ranked 17th richest man in Malaysia with a net worth of US$500mil (RM1.5bil) by Forbes, and Mokhzani, a bit richer at number 15, with a net worth of US$560mil (RM1.68bil).
Both are now 50, and have this ambition of leaving an empire that transcends them. Perhaps that may have been the driver for them to merge their companies; besides, size does matter in the business they are in.
They say the idea of a merger popped up two years ago; they mulled over it, and realised that “size matters'' and pushed for it.
This week shareholders of both their companies gave their blessings to the merger of Sapura Kencana Petroleum Bhd.
But that did not come easy as initially even the Kencana board was apprehensive towards a merger, and not without Mokhzani having to assure them nothing will go wrong, and that Shahril will not take over their company.
After the listing, Mokhzani ends up with a 15.93% stake in Sapura Kencana Petroleum, Shahril 19.2% and the Employees Provident Fund 9.2%.
For years, their companies had survived on jobs from Petronas, though they claim their other clients include Shell, Exxon, and Chevron.
They say they have created a giant that will be able to compete with the top service providers such as Technip, Subsea, McDermott and Saipem, but interestingly, they claim that theirs is the only one that provides end-to-end solutions. That puts them right on top.
Sapura Kencana has an orderbook of jobs worth RM13bil for now that can last them the next three years but these two men are already scouting around for more jobs with eyes fixed on Brazil, Africa, Australia and Gulf of Mexico.
But getting into the big boys' game would mean that they have to compete with the big companies that have the financial muscle, skill sets, expertise and are super efficient since margins for jobs in Brazil and other global markets are razor thin. Are they prepared for that?
Although they say they are mindful of that, the challenges of doing business globally are immense. At hand, the real issue the market perceives is about different personalities running the business even though the lines have been drawn, where Shahril will take charge of marketing and operations and Mokhzani will hold the purse strings and the back-haul.
Still, to the sceptics, these are two strong personalities and each have own way of doing things.
The other factor that both have to look into rather seriously is the mindset shift of their workforce.
They recognise that and even they are getting adjusted to the fact that they are a huge company now. It will take from the effect to trickle down, though the sooner they comprehend the better as their new playground is where margins and deliverables count.
Whatever the challenges, kudos to the two for creating the merged entity as it is about time Malaysia has a company this size to bid for jobs abroad.
Hopefully the two will not have to pay hefty prices for tuition fees unlike many Malaysian companies that had to cough up big money just to learn the ropes of doing business abroad as they slug it out on the playground where giants rule.
Deputy news editor B.K. Sidhu believes the cost of air travel outbound Malaysia is on the way up.
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