Zimi Meka,
Co-Founder & CEO,
AUSENCO
"We will also be looking to grow our consulting business, in particular in environmental services, and we are looking closely at potential acquisitions"

Can you provide an overview of how Ausenco has evolved and expanded its presence globally?

We founded Ausenco in 1991 in Brisbane. The first 10 years were tough, because there was a recession in the mining industry and consequently, a lack of business around. The key decision we made was to take our business abroad in 2002. We followed our clients, building projects in Africa and Asia, and felt that we had a market offshore where Ausenco could prosper. We spent the next 5-10 years looking at opportunities on how to develop Ausenco’s presence in the Americas, because we saw the region as an important part of our business moving forward. In 2008, we bought three businesses which gave us a presence in Canada, US, Chile and Peru.

One of the deals was the acquisition of Sandwell, which gave us the footprint we needed in Canada. 35% of our revenue now comes from Canada and about 45% from South America, which validates the risks we have taken over the years.

Can you shed light on the challenges of operating in Canada and how it compares with other jurisdictions?

Canada presents itself extremely well. It has a good process to get projects approved and permitted, and interactions with local communities and governments are well defined and well understood. We have done a lot of work in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta, and our experience has been very positive. In Nova Scotia and Yukon, Ausenco has brought local people in and worked with the local suppliers and contractors, who have all been good and consistent. Rising costs remain on the radar across the industry. Do you agree that this is an immediate risk?

We are not seeing that sort of pressure on basic costs. The longer we stay in lockdown, perhaps the more pressure we will see because it is pretty hard to move labor across borders. For example, Western Australia is closed to the rest of the country and, with the iron ore price where it is and production where it is, they are short of workers and they cannot bring them from the rest of Australia. In that situation there is pressure in that specific location. However, if the borders were open I do not think we would be seeing that pressure. Moving forward, I think with all of the printing of money and quantitative easing, we are probably going to see some inflationary pressures come through, but that it is yet to come.

What would you say are the key ingredients of building a successful global team?

Very early on, we identified that we wanted Ausenco to have a specific culture and value set and we created a framework on what our values meant. We talk about it constantly. For example, at every company meeting, before we begin, we have what is called a values model. Here someone shares an event, recognizes people or a specific situation or some innovation that exemplifies our values. Then you overlay the purpose; and that is about finding a better way to do things and solve problems. We are always asking, is there a better way?

What are the key milestones Ausenco is looking forward to reaching in the next two years?

From a project perspective, successful completion of the Magino project for Argonaut will be big for us. We also have a project in Chile that we are about to announce, and that we are very keen to make sure is successful. SilverCrest in Mexico is another particular beachhead for the company.

From a corporate perspective there are a lot of opportunities, we just want to make sure we do great work for our clients and maintain the integrity of the Ausenco brand. We will also be looking to grow our consulting business, in particular in environmental services and we are looking closely at potential acquisitions. Lastly, Ausenco has some exciting things happening in the coal space that are a little off the track, but very innovative and different in terms of green energy.