Engineering success: Trip from Tipp proves successful for Kentz

Irish shareholders in the money after Canadian firm acquires company for €1.45bn

There aren't too many Clonmel-based companies that find themselves getting bought out by a Canadian conglomerate for €1.45 billion, but Kentz has always had an eye on the prize.

The company, which employs 14,500 across 36 countries, was established as an electrical contracting business in Clonmel in 1919 by Michael Francis Kent. For many years, it seemed content to stay that way.

It began to look way beyond the river Suir in the late 1970s, however, after successfully completing a project with a US engineering and construction partner in Saudi Arabia.

Remote locations

Kentz has since built an impressive track record providing engineering, construction and technical support services to many of the world’s leading resource clients in some of the most remote locations on Earth.


It has racked up impressive growth in the past five years in particular, with an average annual growth of 28 per cent on revenue and 36 per cent on backlog. Its pipeline of current and strategic prospects at the end of 2012 stood at more than $13 billion.

What’s all the more impressive about Kentz’s recent growth rate is that it comes after a financial collapse that nearly killed off the company in the early 1990s.

Big losses

That happened after the company sustained big losses from its refurbishment of the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya in Spain. Following the collapse, however, it attracted backing from the Malaysian company


, which took a majority stake in the company in 1992.

Kentz went on to float on the Alternative Investment Market (Aim) in London in 2008 before progressing to London’s main list in 2011.

Despite becoming a global company, Kentz has retained close links in Ireland. It told The Irish Times last year that Irish shareholders account for about 1.5 per cent of its investor base. It also still employs about 60 people in Tipperary, where its main administrative base is located.

Some of Kentz's senior Irish-based executives now stand to receive large payouts with the sale of the company. Among these is Ed Power, the company's Waterford-educated chief financial officer, who has a stake in the company of just under 0.9 per cent. Brendan Lyons, a former Irish ambassador to Saudi Arabia, is also on the board as a non-executive director.

Other suitors

Its impressive growth has attracted a number of suitors in recent years. Germany’s M+W Group and British rival Amec submitted offers for the company last year, which were both rejected, and SNC-Lavalin admits it considered buying it around that time. It seems the company is now fully convinced it has a bright future with Kentz on board.

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor is a former Irish Times business journalist