COWI has had a successful 2017, with its best operating profit and strongest order book ever. A favourable purchasing position and increased presence in Southeast Asia help support the expectations of continued growth towards 2020.
COWI continued to progress across the board in 2017: with turnover of DKK 6,151 million, the consulting company achieved growth for the 14th year in a row. COWI also returned an operating profit before depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of DKK 448 million, representing an EBITDA margin of 7.3 per cent and an EBIT margin of 4.4 per cent. And finally, the company achieved a 99 per cent increase in cash flow, to DKK 453 million.
The results please Lars-Peter Søbye, CEO of COWI: “We are now two years into our strategy period towards 2020, and we can safely say that all of the parameters are moving forward and that our business operations are living up to the expectations that we set ourselves. We have generated organic growth in turnover of 4 per cent excluding exchange rate effects, which is especially satisfactory in our industry. We are also improving our earnings, and we have managed to generate a historically high increase in our cash flow, which underpins our financial flexibility – and means that we are geared for new acquisitions,” he says.
On the hunt for new acquisitions
Development and growth through acquisitions are high on COWI’s list of priorities for 2018. Without any debt, with an acquisition capacity in excess of a billion DKK, and with increased financial flexibility, COWI is fully equipped to invest in new services and to purchase new businesses. But acquisitions cannot be forced through, Lars-Peter emphasises: “In our home markets in Scandinavia, the UK and North America, we are always on the lookout for suitable targets, and we strike when the right opportunity comes along. But there has to be a match in culture, and the skills we are buying need to strengthen our existing business,” he says and continues: “Our acquisition of Projektbyrån in Stockholm in April 2017 is a good example. This business has quickly become a well-integrated part of COWI and has significantly enhanced our skills in project management. They deliver strong results and were a vital factor in winning the prestigious renovation project for the Royal Swedish Opera House in Stockholm.”
Strengthened position in Southeast Asia
Urbanisation, and the need for infrastructure, is still the megatrend that drives COWI’s business. For example, COWI won the largest infrastructure project in Norway for 20 years, the Fornebubanen metro line. COWI was also part of a joint venture which won the Canakkale 1915 bridge project in Turkey, which will be the world’s longest suspension bridge.
Urbanisation also creates favourable conditions for COWI’s global business, which is primarily centred on specialised services within bridges, tunnels and marine facilities – where COWI is now in the top five in the world. Southeast Asia has a huge need to make the new megacities work. This can include routing the traffic underground via metro lines and tunnels and creating intelligent solutions for waste water.
“That is why the region is also a big growth market for us. In 2017 we succeeded properly in establishing a strong platform in Singapore, where we are physically present with our own office. Singapore is now one of the most sustainable cities in the world, and we are pleased to be helping with this development, including a huge drainage tunnel, the Deep Tunnel Sewage System, which we won the contract for in 2017. Singapore will be our platform for further development of the favourable market in the whole of Southeast Asia,” says Lars-Peter, concluding with positive expectations for the whole business in the coming years: “We are involved in a number of the biggest prestige projects across our sectors and markets. And with a bigger-than-ever order book, we can look forward to continued positive growth towards 2020.”