Opportunities abroad a rare bright spot for Alberta oilpatch companies

CALGARY - The past year hasn't been kind to Western Canada's oilpatch, but some smaller energy outfits say their international presence has been a rare bright spot.

See Full Article

Shortly after Blue Spark Energy started out in Calgary in 2011, CEO Todd Parker said he wondered whether to "put all our eggs in one basket here in Canada" or diversify into other markets.

The second option turned out to be a good move, said Parker.

The year after its inception, Blue Spark expanded into the U.S. It has since established a presence in Romania, Norway, Denmark, Iraq and Kuwait.

Parker said there's been strong global interest in Blue Spark's technology, which uses shock waves to dislodge gunk from oil wells while drawing as little electricity as a curling iron.

As a small player, it was complicated to get things going at first, he said.

"But it's actually allowed us to ride out the storm and accelerate our growth much faster than if we had stayed within a single market."

Parker figures about 70 to 80 per cent of Blue Spark's revenues come from its international operations these days. He's looking to add 10 staffers to the 30-person workforce by the end of this year - a rarity in an industry that the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors estimates has lost 100,000 jobs in the downturn.

Karl Bauer, sales and marketing director at oilfield service provider Snubco Group, said his company has had to "skinny right up" because of the downturn, but its business in Europe and Latin America has helped it avoid having to cut into its core staff.

Snubco had 145 workers during its pre-downturn peak. Its head count is now at around 45.

"We'd probably, I would say, lose half of them for sure if it wasn't for some of the European stuff," he said. "This gives us an opportunity to keep our employees working and get some cash flow coming into the tap."

"We get to retain them, they get to keep the paycheque and it keeps everything going through the slow period for sure."

Keeping employees has also been a big priority for Bryce Pinto, president and CEO of Precision Engineering, an Edmonton-based firm that's been focused on Western Canada for 34 years.

"We've definitely had our fair share of pain," he said. "Our work volumes are down, just like anyone else and that's kind of why we started looking at other markets."

Pinto participated in a trade mission to Mexico and Colombia last month and came away with a few leads. But he's not banking on an immediate payoff.

"You have to take your time and do your homework before jumping in with both feet."

Jarl Groothuysen, operations manager at LSC Industrial, made the trip to Mexico and Colombia as well.

The Bonnyville, Alta.-based company provides construction, manufacturing and other services. Groothuysen said he's working out pricing with a couple of potential customers he met on the mission.

"We kind of chose the best of the best and we're following up," he said.

"They need companies like ours down there."



Advertisements

Latest Economic News

  • China, Canada face similar pension challenges: CEO of CPP Investment Board

    Economic CTV News
    BEIJING -- The top executive at Canada's largest retirement fund is in Beijing today to help grow the fund's relationship with Chinese pension officials. Mark Machin was on hand for the official launch of a Chinese translation of "Fixing the Future" -- a book tracing the political and financial hurdles that were overcome when the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board was created in the 1990s. Source
  • Unilever shares tumble as Kraft Heinz drops takeover bid

    Economic CBC News
    Kraft Heinz Co.'s rapid retreat from its surprise $143 billion US bid for Unilever in the face of stiff resistance knocked the Anglo-Dutch company's shares on Monday as investors assessed the impact of the failed approach. Source
  • Hong Kong Disneyland posts 2016 loss on tourism softness

    Economic CTV News
    Hong Kong Disneyland posted a wider annual loss on Monday as attendance by mainland Chinese tourists dropped amid a softer tourism market. The park said it lost 171 million Hong Kong dollars (US$22 million) on revenue of HK$4.8 billion for its most recent financial year, which ended Oct. Source
  • Unilever shares slide after Kraft Heinz withdraws US$143B bid

    Economic CTV News
    NEW YORK -- Shares in Unilever, the owner of brands like Hellman's, Lipton, and Knorr, are down sharply after rival Kraft Heinz withdrew a US$143 billion takeover offer. The companies said Sunday in a joint press release that Kraft Heinz has "amicably" abandoned the offer. Source
  • Quebec turns up the maple syrup taps amid internal revolt, foreign competition

    Economic CTV News
    MONTREAL -- Quebec, the world's largest producer of maple syrup, is ramping up output as it fends off rising competition from the U.S. and neighbouring provinces as well as a farmer rebellion from within. The province is adding five million taps over the next two years to its existing 43 million spigots. Source
  • Mortgage math: Rates aren't everything, don't forget to consider term

    Economic CTV News
    OTTAWA -- You shopped around for the best deal on your mortgage and weighed the pros and cons of going with a fixed-rate or a variable-rate loan, but another key factor to consider is the term. Source
  • Plutocrats with their crony capitalism are taking over again in the U.S.: Don Pittis

    Economic CBC News
    Can one of the richest cabinets in White House history since the late-19th-century Gilded Age make the United States equal again? Many have their doubts. In fact there are signs that instead, the U.S. Source
  • Asian markets mixed as investors await earnings reporters

    Economic CTV News
    HONG KONG -- Asian stocks were mixed in early trading Monday as investors looked for fresh leads while they awaited economic and corporate earnings reports and Fed meeting minutes due out this week. KEEPING SCORE: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index lost 0.1 percent to 19,207.30 and South Korea's Kospi dipped 0.1 percent to 2,078.08. Source
  • World stocks mostly rise as U.S. remains shut for holiday

    Economic CTV News
    HONG KONG -- Global stocks mostly rose Monday, though Wall Street to remain shut for a holiday, as investors awaited economic and corporate earnings reports and Fed meeting minutes due out this week. KEEPING SCORE: In Europe, France's CAC 40 shed 0.1 per cent to 4,864 and Germany's DAX gained 0.5 per cent to 11,816. Source
  • Montreal’s Luxury Retreats said to be Airbnb’s biggest acquisition to date

    Economic CTV News
    Online hospitality marketplace Airbnb has acquired Montreal-based posh vacation rental service Luxury Retreats in an effort to broaden its appeal to customers looking for more than a couch to crash on. The cash and stock deal reported to be worth between US$200 million and $300 million is said to be Airbnb’s biggest acquisition to date. Source