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AU Everyone's a winner in Watpac sale

Property Here - Wednesday, April 10, 2013

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IN a long career littered with many sweet deals, perhaps Kevin Seymour's latest may become one of his greatest legacies.

The former Watpac chairman and long-term board member has sold his 15.01 per cent stake in the Queensland company to international construction company Besix Group for a figure believed to be around $20 million.

While he was happy with the price, Mr Seymour said the deal, after six months of negotiation, was not one of pure financial gain.

"It's more one of loyalty to Watpac,'' he said.

"I've been there for 16 years . . . and I've always said that regardless of what happens I wouldn't sell my shares to anyone who could not add value to the company.

"This transaction puts Watpac into a very desirable position.

"With the added strength of Besix it has the chance to do major jobs that it could not have done before.''

Besix was founded in 1909 and is one of the world's largest privately-owned construction groups.

It operates in 17 countries in Europe, Africa and the Middle East and employing 20,000 people worldwide.
The company was part of the joint venture that delivered the world's tallest tower, the 800m tall Burj Kahlifa, in Dubai in 2010.

Current landmark projects include the Ferrari Experience theme park in Abu Dhabi, the Carpe Diem office tower in Paris and the Ras Laffan Port Expansion Project in Qatar.

In Australia, Besix is operating in the marine works sector in a joint venture to design and build a construction port comprising a breakwater and materials unloading facility as part of the LNG terminal for Chevron at Wheatstone in Western Australia.

Watpac said the total transaction, which included smaller shareholdings, would give the Belgium-based company a total 15.6 per cent stake in the Queensland property group.

The agreement is subject to approval from the Foreign Investment Review Board and is scheduled to settle within the next 30 days.

Mr Seymour will not retain any shares in Watpac and he will step down from the board in September.

Besix chairman Johan Beerlandt will sit on the Watpac board and the construction giant will have a second board member when Mr Seymour retires.

It is understood the deal was sparked by Besix seeking a greater role in the Australian market and a springboard into Asia.

As part of the deal, Besix has signed a memorandum of understanding to investigate future joint venture opportunities with Watpac.

Watpac chairman Chris Freeman said Besix monitored the Australian market for several years before contacting Watpac.

"The strategic alliance with Watpac provides Besix Group with a reliable partner with sophisticated local networks, a healthy balance sheet, diversified income stream and rigorous corporate governance,'' he said.

"It also provides a platform for Besix to expand its international operations and increase its exposure to Australia's construction sector.''

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