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Katoni appoints industry stalwart as new chairman

Aberdeen-headquartered Katoni Engineering has appointed an industry stalwart as its new chairman.

Donnie Maclean led Dingwall-based John Maclean and Sons Electrical until it was sold in 2015, a year after it posted an 85% rise in pre-tax profits to £9.39 million.

In his new non-executive role, he comes in as a “mentor” for Katoni, founded in 2010 by his son, John, who is managing director.

Katoni aims to treble in size over the next two years and become the engineering contractor of choice between oil and gas operators in Aberdeen.

Donnie said recent progress is part of what attracted him to the role.

He added: “Most of the market seems to be dominated by three or four players, but there is demand for a small, independent and well-run flexible engineering company.

“Katoni has been gathering momentum these past years. Although I’m not getting involved full-time, I felt, following 40 years in the industry, I’ve got something to offer.”

John Maclean and Sons was founded in the 1970s to supply specialist electrical equipment to the North Sea oil market before diversifying into other sectors.

Katoni was set up to focus on supporting operators of mature assets in the North Sea, “minus the corporate overheads associated with the big players”.

Managing director John’s background as an electrician and construction worker offshore is the “complete opposite” of his father’s.

But Katoni hopes their combined practical experience and business acumen will be a winning formula.

John said: “When the downturn hit, it hit us hard as well. We’re not immune to this, and we took the opportunity to invest in our systems, processes and procedures when a lot of the competition was not investing and was looking to cut costs.

“We made that substantial investment and we’re starting to reap the awards now.”

Like Maclean Electrical, which enjoyed growth overseas, Katoni has made inroads in markets around the world such as Ghana and Mexico.

However, it is firmly in the UK North Sea where the company is focused and where it expects to follow through on its growth plans.

Donnie said: “The core of the business is still going to be the North Sea. We do have a couple of irons in the fire overseas and we will keep working on them as time allows but I think Katoni has to continue working at its home base. I think it has a lot to offer here.

“I will do all I can to help grow that business and get a strong base in Aberdeen.”
Katoni is replicating key characteristics of Maclean Electrical.

The firm prides itself on the professional standard of its staff and the strength of its systems, both of which Donnie considers to be pillars of his former company’s success.

Katoni, which employs a core team of 35, is around half-way through a six-figure investment in its IT systems.

That has been brought on by a need “all the way down the supply chain” to be more efficient, with Katoni keen to make sure it works smarter than other firms.

General manager James Bream said: “While we will treble in size, the aim is to not necessarily have every pound requiring an extra person.

“That’s where some of the systems, some of the clever stuff we’ve learned from other industries, will help us be a bit more efficient.”

Katoni expects to achieve its growth targets by servicing existing clients well, but the new systems are also geared to many of the newer and nimbler operators taking up mature assets in the basin.

John said Katoni’s way of working, also being a smaller and nimbler firm in the contractor arena, plays into the firm’s hands.

He said: “A lot of the previous owners had long-established relationships with tier one contractors and these new companies coming in are looking for flexible services, dynamic solutions.

“They want value-added solutions, not necessarily the cheapest but what’s going to give them the greatest return for their investments.

“I think small, flexible companies like us can go and do that.

“We will never recommend they go and do something if it’s not going to add value to them, even if it benefits us. We’ve had a lot of good feedback on the recommendations we’ve given clients.”

Donnie added: “The easy oil is already out and the players now are often making themselves more technically and financially efficient to get the remaining oil out.

“We’ve all got to do things smarter and more efficiently to ensure the longevity of this industry we’re in. I see it still as a long-term industry, one we wish to play a major part in.”

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