Master Drilling Group continued to add to its client and service base over the course of 2020, with bright spots reported in exploration drilling and the West Africa gold sector.
Its 2020 financials were hit by COVID-19, with revenue dropping 17% year-on-year to $123.1 million and operating profit declining to $12.3 million, from $24.1 million in 2019.
Danie Pretorius, CEO of Master Drilling, said: “Master Drilling’s overall performance for the year was weighed down by the weak global economic growth environment entering 2020, which was compounded by the material impact of COVID-19, across the 23 countries in which we operate, from a human, financial and operational perspective.
“Although the group experienced a significant decline in revenue in the South American operations, primarily due to government-imposed COVID-19 restrictions, this was offset by regions such as India, Africa and Scandinavia which remained operational and received various stimulus packages.”
Despite a decrease in revenue, the company’s net cash generation increased 72.7% to $25.5 million as it contained capital expenditure by balancing maintenance with emerging opportunities.
In the second half of the year, Master Drilling was awarded new exploration projects and mobilised an additional fleet to service existing clients, with a considerable turnaround in drilling and exploration activity becoming more apparent and creating a healthy pipeline, it said.
Around a year ago, Master Drilling fulfilled the conditions to acquire Geoserve Exploration Drilling, increasing the South Africa-based company’s ability to offer exploration drilling, reverse circulation drilling, geotechnical investigations and grade control drilling services.
Its commitment to Africa saw the continent become the largest contributor to the group in terms of revenue and profits over the course of the year. Aggressive expansion into West Africa continued as part of the group’s diversification strategy, with a specific focus on gold, which has seen a surge in demand since 2019.
Master Drilling also continued to grow its presence in new markets, including Australia, Russia and Central Asia. It secured new contracts with a focus on raiseboring and mechanised mining services, too.
As at December 31, 2020, Master Drilling’s sales pipeline totalled $539.9 million with a stable order book of $212.8 million (2019: $142.1 million).
“In the short to medium term, the sales pipeline is expected to normalise and increase with further tactical acquisitions and joint ventures supporting performance,” it said. “Opportunities to diversify outside of the traditional drilling business into areas such as artificial intelligence will also continue.”
Although capital has been tightly managed in response to the uncertain environment, Master Drilling says technological innovation remains a key priority for the company.
Commenting on the investment, Pretorius said: “Our recent investment in AVA is aligned with our strategy to diversify our services and invest in businesses that help us meet our clients’ demand for increased mechanisation and digitisation. Other opportunities with low capital requirements and short return cycles are currently under review.”
He concluded on the annual results: “Although the shape of recovery remains uncertain, we have seen a turnaround in the past six months across the commodities and regions that we are already exposed to. Having made significant investments in our fleet, technology and geographical diversification over the past couple of years, we are now positioned to capitalise on the predicted commodities bull run without requiring additional capital investment.”