Subsea Expo

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Aker Solutions could get 20-job Expansion at Theodore Facility

20 March 2010

Aker Solutions could add 20 more jobs and invest another $6 million at its Theodore facility if it wins a big project.

The Mobile County Industrial Development Authority approved tax exemptions worth $431,334 Friday to help lure the work here. Marc Quenneville, vice president of Aker's North American subsea operations, said he couldn't name the client, but said an announcement could come early next week.

Exemptions include a 10-year break on the non-school portion of property taxes, worth an estimated $288,000, and a sales tax waiver, worth an estimated $143,334.

At its Middle Bay Port facility just north of the Theodore Industrial Canal, the firm makes umbilicals, flexible steel tubes that carry fiber optics, electrical wiring and hydraulic fluid from oil and gas platforms to the ocean floor. Aker has 155 employees.

The new jobs would pay $50,000 a year, the firm said.

Quenneville wrote in a letter to the authority that the expansion would increase Aker's local capacity by 40 percent "to ensure our future market share."

Aker would have to lease another 7.1 acres from the Alabama State Port Authority for the expansion. Quenneville said after the meeting that the facility can't make more of the long tubes without space to store them.

"You can only bid on more work if you have a place to put it," he said.

In August, Aker announced a $2.3 million, 30-job expansion. That expansion allowed the firm to make tools used for the installation and repair of drilling risers, which help hold up pipes as they stretch from seafloor to drilling platform. The firm won tax breaks worth $238,387 from the authority for that project.

The state docks board is scheduled Tuesday to consider leasing 4.55 acres for the riser work, in exchange for $54,600 a year, docks spokeswoman Judy Adams said.

She said Aker has an option to lease the additional 7 acres, but is waiting to win the contract before taking the land.

"They have opened negotiations, but they have not finalized them," Adams said.

Aker said in its fourth-quarter earnings report that many oil companies were taking bids for work, "but awards are tending to be postponed and pricing is competitive." Still, it said it expects spending by those firms to grow this year.

The subsea unit's revenue fell 5.5 percent to 12.97 billion Norwegian kroner ($2.2 billion). The unit's profit before interest and taxes fell 33 percent to 949 million kroner ($160 million).