Protasco eyes Libya jobs to lift overseas earnings

PROTASCO Bhd, which lost over RM40 million from its operation in Libya due to a revolution, is banking on new jobs there to improve overseas earnings.

The mid-size integrated infrastructure company is eyeing road and bridge repair works, as well as highway maintenance, group managing director Datuk Chong Ket Pen told Business Times in an interview, here, recently.

"We like Libya as it offers good contract prices. The contracts are based on direct negotiations, which means there is no competitive bidding that will squeeze the margins," Chong said.

Protasco is not new to Libya as it had won two road projects several years ago worth a combined RM250 million.

It completed 60 per cent of the works before fleeing the revolution that torn country in 2011.

"The job balance is worth about RM110 million and we have resumed works. We have gone back to Libya to cash in on the situation. We hope that by completing the two roads, we will get more jobs there," Chong said.

Libya is expected to invest US$140 billion (RM462 billion) in projects over the next decade as the country embarks on building a sustainable future. The developments and projects are across critical infrastructure, energy, utilities and industrial sectors

"A lot of roads and bridges were damaged during the war and the government is spending money to get them repaired. Thankfully, the two roads that we were building were not damaged.

"We, however, will be claiming between RM20 million and RM30 million in damages for the loss of expenses in the two years of the war, depreciation of machinery, overheads and price escalation," he said.

Libya was once touted as the next gold mine for Protasco in strengthening its order book, before the revolution took place.

Before it fled the war-torn country, Protasco's net profit from overseas jobs was in the low double digit.

However, this dropped to less than two per cent after it fled Libya.

"We are building up again. We have some cooperation in Bangladesh where we are providing our technical support and project management for a road project there. We will benefit in terms of management and consultancy fees," Chong said.

For the nine months ended September 30, 2013, Protasco posted a net profit of RM69.98 million on revenue of RM581.7 million.