London: V.Group, already a hugely diverse company, is looking to add further strings to its bow.
Clive Richardson, president and group ceo of the company, tells Maritime CEO that there are “emerging opportunities” across a range of services. Training and crew welfare, dry dock preparation and management, offshore personnel services and life-saving appliance servicing are some of the things Richardson is looking at.
“Our approach to the development of our business has been to focus on organic growth as a priority but to consider acquisitions where it is difficult to gain momentum quickly. So, in considering new areas we would look at both approaches,” he says.
As a manager, V.Group is backed by private equity (PE), which gives Richardson a “privileged perspective”, he says, on the benefits that PE brings to shipping generally.
“They’re smart people,” he says, “who provide a valuable alternative source of capital and who put money to work and drive the companies they back to perform well. So, they are having a positive impact on the way that ships are put to work and the outsourcing route gets a better hearing as a result. There’s little room for emotion in PE and so, where a strong economic argument can be made, it normally wins the day. That’s got to be good for managers as it brings the benefits of outsourcing into public focus and makes people sit up and take notice.”
Richardson has no doubt that PE will be around for a good while to come, since they’ve taken positions on assets that won’t unwind for several years.
“It remains to be seen whether they will be able to compete over the long term, but as they learn more about the sector, why shouldn’t they?” he muses.
V.Group is often linked with consolidation within the shipmanagement sector, but increasingly Richardson is not convinced that consolidation is inevitable.
“There comes a point where there’s no real or perceived benefit to a client, who has carefully selected a trusted partner, in becoming part of a larger, consolidated business,” he concludes. [16/07/14]