CSE Global's business, as its name suggests, is global. Currently, it operates principally in the US, Australia and Singapore.

Inorganic growth is a key part of its growth strategy -- which makes sense because it takes a long time to start a business from nothing to something significant in foreign lands.

So far this year, CSE has made three acquisitions and announced a fourth.

Acquired company
in 2019

Country of registration

Consideration

Stake

Volta, LLC

USA

US$25.1 m
(S$34.8 m)

100%

Chatterbox Limited

England/
Wales

GBP552,000 (approx S$948,998)

100%

RCS Telecommunications Pty Ltd

Australia

A$11.64 m (approx S$11.26 m)

100%

Blackstar Services, LLC

USA

US$2.375 million (approx S$3.25 m)

100%


Based in Houston, Volta LLC designs and fabricates large-scale electrical equipment centers for the oil & gas industry.

The purchase consideration is US$25.1 million (S$34.8 million) cash, as announced on 2 Sept 2019.


The proposed acquisition is highly accretive: In 1H2019, Volta recorded US$5.9 million (S$8.3 million) net profit while CSE achieved S$12.6 million.


LinusLooLinus LooGiven the relative significance of Volta to CSE's earnings, questions arose at the 3Q19 results briefing: How will CSE ensure that Volta management continues to perform? Are they tied down?

The questions were posed by Linus Loo, an analyst at Lim & Tan Securities.

CSE's MD, Lim Boon Kheng, said Volta's controlling shareholder and founder is 68 years old and has indicated he would work a few more years and then semi-retire.

The management team of Volta is expected to integrate well with the management of the direct acquirer, which is a 100%-owned subsidiary of CSE in Houston.

LimBoonKheng1119MD Lim Boon Kheng at 3Q19 results briefing. Photo by Ngo Yit SungMr Lim added that Volta's business is complementary to CSE's and CSE is familiar with the management: "Sometimes in the past we have been their customer, and sometimes we have been their supplier."

As a team, they will bid for bigger jobs, tapping on each other's strengths.

CSE non-executive chairman, Lim Ming Seong, sharing more insights, said by selling his business, Volta's controlling shareholder looked forward to being relieved of the burden of his personal guarantee to his bankers. 

With CSE as the owner, Volta would be able to pursue bigger projects that it would otherwise not consider given the risks, or larger financing, that the boss is averse to because of personal circumstances.

The Volta staff are happy with the change of ownership as it means more projects are potentially in the works, and it's not a private equity firm taking over and embarking on cost-cutting measures as is the nature of PE firms, said Mr Lim.

briefing board3Q19(L-R): MD Lim Boon Kheng | Non-executive Chairman Lim Ming Seong | CFO Eddie Foo.
Photo by Ngo Yit Sung
Added Mr Lim: "When we acquire a company, we don't tie the management down.  Unlike other acquirers, we don't send over our own people to be CEO or finance manager, or anyone to keep an eye on things.

"Instead we lend them support and let them continue to run things. We give incentives, bonuses, and tell them to go and make more money. That's the CSE philosophy all these years."

CSE management didn't say it but presumably they intensely weigh the qualities -- character, capabilities, passion, etc -- of the management of target companies.
 
And if they fail? "If they fail, I fire them," said Mr Lim Ming Seong. 

For CSE's announcement on Volta acquisition, click here. 

For analysts' take on 3Q performance, see: 


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