The CEO of the engineering company Duro Felguera, Jaime Argüelles, summed up the delicate situation in which the company finds itself towards the end of his speech at the shareholders’ meeting this Tuesday: “We are on the right track, but slower. We need more time to return to our new normality due to this unexpected situation.” Judging by his speech and that of the president, Rosa Aza, this unforeseen situation he was talking about ranges from the pandemic to the war in Ukraine, going through the rise in the price of raw materials or the diplomatic crisis between Spain and Algeria (the company develops in Djelfa a combined cycle power plant). A few hours before, in the main square of Gijón and as collected Trade, a group of workers from Duro Felguera Calderería Pesada (El Tallerón), demonstrated asking for an industrial solution for the company in which 126 million public money has been invested (120 through the SEPI bailout and 6 from the Asturian Government).
Duro Felguera, which has been in an almost permanent crisis in recent years, has spent months looking for one or more industrial partners that contribute three things: trust, money and industrial synergies. “The process continues to progress very well. We anticipate an upcoming solution that will satisfy us all”, said the manager without giving further details. For the rest, the lifeline is based on continuing to increase the contracting portfolio now that the energy crisis has boosted Oil&Gas projects. “Duro Felguera has a solution, we are on the right path”, encouraged Argüelles.
In his forecasts, this year the hiring figures of 300 million will almost certainly be exceeded (he even pointed out that they may reach 500) and he drew a promising future, with an annual turnover that in three years (2022-2024) would approach 500 million per year and would be 700 in 2025. In this way, a positive operating result of 48 million would be achieved at the end of the period. Although all this will have to be proven. Last year the Asturian company had revenues of 84.5 million (37% lower than in 2020) and a negative operating result of 9 million. It employs about 1,100 people.
The engineering company, on whose board of directors two former socialist ministers are independent (Valeriano Gómez and Jordi Sevilla) wants to move forward without forgetting a present full of commitments. Because parallel to the public bailout, the financial structure of the company, after successive refinancing and agreements with the bank syndicate, is subject to a loan of 85 million (it has repaid 15) and a guarantee line of 80 million. “This process has allowed us to strengthen our position and has made it easier for us to return to the markets,” said Argüelles. In his day to day he also has to deal with those loan repayment commitments, with the search for investors, the control of litigation for works that he has open and the progress in the activity in the midst of a general tightening of the belt, with the reduction of costs and general expenses.
It is undeniable that Duro Felguera has had bad luck in Algeria. In the North African country they have nearly half a thousand employees working on a 550 million project, of which 150 million are pending execution. “Although the client has not notified us, there is a change in payments that affects construction delays”, all aggravated by the blocking of bank accounts. “We are in continuous contact with the client,” referring to Sonelgaz, the country’s gas and electricity public services company, according to the top executive. The good news is that another large project in Iernut (Romania) to build a combined cycle thermal power plant with a budget of 280 million (of which 15 million are pending plus an expansion of another 50 million) will be resumed in the coming weeks. But new contracts under development, such as the €100m contract won in January for a customer in the Netherlands, will need financial backing.
The company, which has been restructured into five divisions (Conventional Energy, Industrial Plants, Services, Renewable Energies and Intelligent Systems) wants to promote the area of clean energy and has adhered to the plan for the future committed to SEPI, making it its strategic plan. Despite the “overwhelming effects” of the international macroeconomic context to which the president referred in her speech, the company could take advantage of a situation where many countries prioritize energy self-sufficiency over emission reduction. An advantage that, as Rosa Aza recognized, they will have if they know how to “do things well”.