Keppel sets aside $230m for possible losses in Brazil

Keppel Corp's multi-business strategy has helped "steady the ship in rough waters", says chairman Mr Loh.
Keppel Corp's multi-business strategy has helped "steady the ship in rough waters", says CEO Mr Loh.PHOTO: REUTERS

Company halts work for client Sete Brasil, which is facing bankruptcy threat

Keppel Corporation has halted work on its projects for Sete Brasil and made a provision of about $230 million for the possible write-offs, said chief executive Loh Chin Hua yesterday.

Sete Brasil, the conglomerate's Brazilian client, is facing a bankruptcy threat as the collapse in oil prices - now down to less than US$30 a barrel - hurt demand for its drilling equipment.

"Keppel, being one of the earliest Singapore companies to enter the Brazilian market, has not been spared from this storm," Mr Loh told a results briefing. "We had taken steps to mitigate our exposure by slowing the construction of Sete's rigs after payments from our customer ceased over a year ago."

This comes as KepCorp reported a 44.2 per cent slump in net profit to $404.8 million for the fourth quarter ended Dec 31, amid worsening market conditions.

Revenue for the period sank 36.8 per cent to $2.48 billion, dragged down by lower contributions across all its businesses. Earnings for the full year were down 19.1 per cent to $1.52 billion, while revenue slid 22.5 per cent to $10.3 billion.

  • AT A GLANCE

  • REVENUE: $2.48 billion (-36.8%)

    NET PROFIT: $404.8 million (-44.2%)

    FINAL DIVIDEND PER SHARE: 22 cents (-38.9%)

The group has proposed a final dividend of 22 cents per share, bringing the total dividend for the year to 34 cents, including an interim cash dividend of 12 cents that was paid out last August. Although the previous year's total dividend is 48 cents, Keppel is still paying out around 40 per cent of its profits.

Unsurprisingly, Keppel's offshore and marine unit languished in the quarter, with the division's fourth- quarter turnover plunging $1.05 billion to $1.32 billion because of "lower volume of work, deferment of some projects and the suspension of the Sete Brasil contracts".

Earnings per share for the quarter fell 44.1 per cent to 22.3 cents a share. Net asset value per share grew 7 per cent to $6.13 per share as at Dec 31.

At the briefing, analysts zoomed in on the Sete Brasil provision, which Mr Loh stressed was "adequate at this point in time".

He added that the group's multi-business strategy has helped "steady the ship in rough waters".

"Overall higher contributions from the property and investments divisions in the past year have helped cushion the impact of offshore and marine's fall in earnings. Had we been a single business company, our results would have been much weaker." For example, while full-year profit for offshore and marine fell 54 per cent, profit for property was 45 per cent higher, at $701 million, and profit from investments jumped to $136 million.

Mr Loh said: "To ride out the interim turbulence, we are keeping a watchful eye on our gearing and cash flow. We will continue to stay close to our customers and focus on execution while right-sizing the organisation so that we can remain profitable even with a lower top line."

Keppel shares closed three cents lower at $4.80, before the results were released.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 22, 2016, with the headline 'Keppel sets aside $230m for possible losses in Brazil'. Print Edition | Subscribe