THE man who set up Murray International Metals' (MIM) steel business in Singapore in 1992 has chosen Glasgow as the first UK base for his new venture.
Michael Craig assembled a group of North Sea oil and gas veterans, many ex-MIM, to set up EEW Energy Services, a Singapore-based steel supplier last year.
The business is funded largely by Germany's EEW Group, a 75 year old family-run company with a network of steel mills and manufacturing facilities in Asia, Europe and the Middle East.
Loading article content
Following a £6 million investment, EEW Energy has opened its first UK operation in Glasgow's Port Dundas, where an initial 15 staff will be employed.
It has landed a £1 million deal with Belfast-based Harland and Wolff to supply steel to the Humber Gateway Substation Project, a wind farm off the Yorkshire coast.
Asked whether the current surge in North Sea investment was behind the decision to come to Scotland, Mr Craig said: "Yes and no. The oil and gas sector goes up and down like any industry, but in terms of the sector that we are serving, it is pretty recession-proof.
"The consideration for us was more a case of getting this business back into the upstream and energy sector. We knew it was there, we know the people, we know connections, we know how the businesses work."
Mr Craig, who left Edgen Murray two years ago, heads the business with chief financial officer Alan Hyslop, a private equity veteran of 30 years. After getting off to a "flying start" in Singapore, the UK was considered "the next most obvious stopping point" as EEW looked for ways to grow the business.
Mr Craig praised EEW for providing the balance sheet power in sector where its deals will typically involve expenditure of £5m to £10m.
While Mr Craig described the Harland & Wolff deal as a "cracker", and is in talks over a further business with the firm, he said even bigger deals were in the offing.
The company's activities fall under two strands, projects and distribution. The latter has been out-sourced to global distribution specialist Braids, which is also based in Glasgow.
Mr Craig said: "The EEW Group is very big in the renewables sector as well. Obviously there is quite a lot of activity taking place in the UK. It is perfect timing."
On the projects side, Mr Craig said the main focus was on achieving ISO (international organisation for standardisation) approvals for the oil and gas sector.
The company's biggest sector is oil and gas, where applications for its products include traditional jacket construction for oil rigs and jack-up rigs. It also makes conductor pipes - a component used in looking for and extracting oil.
Mr Craig noted future opportunities for the firm in supplying the shale gas sector, if the controversial practice overcomes environmental objections to take root in the UK, and ultimately nuclear power.
Mr Craig said: "If shale gas goes ahead, which I think it will at some stage, again it is great for us because it all needs pipes, it needs distribution networks to run it through."