Depa chief executive says Dubai fit-out contractor's restructuring aimed for clearer strategy

The chief executive of Dubai fit-out contractor Depa has said its restructuring has been aimed at adopting a clearer strategic focus.

Hamish Tyrwhitt, who was appointed as chief executive in April, has overseen the creation of six separate operating companies overseen by a new “strategic management company” that will set goals and identify new markets.

Mr Tyrwhitt said that in Dubai especially, Depa was still too closely identified with the interior contracting business that it emerged from, potentially to the detriment of other (mainly acquired) businesses that now make up about half of group revenues.

Following the restructuring, a core of about 25 staff will handle group operations from offices in Business Bay, but operational decisions will be taken within the six businesses – Depa Interiors, Singapore-based Design Studio, Germany-based Vedder, retail specialist Deco Interiors, Lindner Middle East and procurement consultancy The Parker Company.

“The last thing I want here is controlling operations, because we’ve got people making commitments to customers around the world and it’s impossible to manage expectations and deliver on contractual entitlements unless you are physically on site,” said Mr Tyrwhitt.

Depa first half profit rose to Dh16.2 million from Dh15.4m a year earlier.

Mr Tyrwhitt told The National that its restructuring had not involved any reduction in headcount. After the business secured 152 new contracts worth Dh937m during the period, headcount increased by 0.5 to 1 per cent to serve a backlog that has grown by 5 per cent since the start of the year to Dh2.2 billion.

He argued that Depa was in a much healthier position than other contracting businesses in the region, partly because its revenue stream is more diverse – only half is generated in the Mena region, with about 25 per cent coming from Design Studio in Singapore and 25 per cent through Vedder in Europe.

He said that it relies less on staff on sites in places like Saudi Arabia, with much more of its Middle East work pre-assembled at factories in Dubai.

“Most of what we do is flat- packed. So we do all of our own engineering, our manufacturing and then we take our products and do our own installation. The bulk of our services – the value-add and the cost base – is in the procurement and manufacture.”

Depa’s shares ended the day flat on the Nasdaq Dubai market, at $0.35.

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Michael Fahy

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