Schoeller-Bleckmann – With full order books into the new year

At the Lower Austrian oil field equipment supplier SBO, profits are bubbling up like they haven’t for a long time. In the first three quarters, the Ternitz-based company earned 55.3 million euros after taxes, more than six times as much as in the same period of the previous year. This was helped by the sharp rise in sales and the order intake, which jumped to a record high (see chart). “We are growing in all regions and product areas and are seeing the best development for around a decade,” reported company boss Gerald Grohmann on Thursday. “We are thus heading for an extremely strong year.”

The reason for the business going so well was increased investments by the international oil and gas industry in the production infrastructure – above all in the USA and the Middle East. “Due to failures in politics and the energy markets in the past, there is a lot of catching up to do,” explained Grohmann. “That lets our growth engine run at full speed.” Of course, SBO also plays into the cards the ongoing uncertainties surrounding energy supplies from Russia, which are to be replaced in the future if possible.

Schoeller-Bleckmann Oilfield Equipment, as the company’s full name is, is a subcontractor and as such specializes in the manufacture of key components in directional drilling technology – drill bits and drill rods. Here, the group, which is listed in the Vienna stock exchange index ATX, is the world market leader. In addition, SBO also has high-performance drilling motors and special tools for borehole cleaning during ongoing drilling operations in its product portfolio.

In order to be able to process the increasing number of orders from international oil service companies, the company has significantly increased its workforce this year – from around 1,300 to almost 1,500 employees, as Grohmann said. In addition, you work more shifts, arrange overtime and increase the number of production machines if necessary.

The SBO boss, who has been at the operational top for 21 years, is also positive about the future. “Despite concerns about the development of the global economy, a multi-year upswing is emerging on the energy markets,” said Grohmann. “We expect investments in exploration and production to continue to increase.” Because it is gradually becoming clear that alternative energy sources cannot replace oil and gas as quickly as hoped. Against this background, Grohmann expects the dynamic trend at SBO to continue in 2023. “Our order books are full, in some areas the orders will extend into the third quarter of 2023.”

No withdrawal from Russia

Grohmann is sticking to the Russian location – SBO is also active abroad in the USA (Texas), Canada, Mexico and Great Britain. They have “western customers who still need us” and “long-standing employees for whom we feel responsible”. In terms of group sales, sales in Russia account for a very small proportion. According to Grohmann, this is “in the low single-digit percentage range”.

In the medium to long term, SBO wants to establish a second mainstay – namely in the green tech industry, specifically with equipment for geothermal energy and in the high-end area for the production of e-fuels. “My plan is to do both,” says Grohmann. When it comes to hydrogen (e-fuels), SBO is still looking for a suitable company acquisition. By 2030, the group wants to generate 50 percent of its sales outside of oil and gas.

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