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GRL Acquired by Fugro

09 September 2009

General Robotics Limited (GRL), the leading supplier of simulation and visualisation software to the offshore oil and gas sector, has been acquired by Fugro for an undisclosed sum. GRL will be renamed Fugro GRL and will become a member of Fugro Subsea Services, keeping the same management team and staff headed by Dr Jason Tisdall. While developing and implementing products for Fugro operating companies, Fugro GRL will have commercial independence to pursue activities outside Fugro. The company will continue to maintain offices in Milton Keynes and Aberdeen.

Fugro has acquired GRL to develop and expand GRL's subsea technologies in order to enhance the services offered by Fugro's Subsea Services Business Line. GRL expects to be working closely with a number of Fugro operating companies on a wide range of subsea scenarios and practical implementations.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for us to work as part of a worldwide group in developing our simulation and visualisation products, and to further our expertise across a raft of subsea environments and challenges, but with the assurance of Fugro's financial backing all the while,” said Dr Jason Tisdall, Managing Director of General Robotics Limited.

”For GRL's existing customers it remains business as usual except that our R&D will now have the financial backing of Fugro. GRL is now a Fugro OpCo but we will continue to have commercial independence to make our own decisions and get our own customers,” added Dr Tisdall. “Fugro has an excellent reputation for letting companies it acquires get on with the job. We have a clear understanding with Fugro that in addition to developing and implementing solutions for Fugro companies, we will continue our commercial focus outside of Fugro maintaining and extending our existing customer base.”

An immediate concern for many subsea contractors in the acquisition of GRL by Fugro will lie in the possibility of conflicts of interest, commercial confidentiality and impartiality.

“Given that some of our customers are direct competitors of Fugro we will have very clearly defined Chinese Walls, so that customer information intended only for GRL will be managed and maintained only by GRL. One of our immediate challenges is convincing customers that we can absolutely maintain the confidentiality of their information. I believe we can and, importantly, we have Fugro's agreement to these security procedures,” emphasised Dr Tisdall.

Many professional organisations host competing clients, but keep them totally separate. It's about professionalism and the management of risk, Dr Tisdall believes.

Trevor-Larkum, Chairman, General Robotics Limited added, “In terms of maintaining a level playing field with Fugro vis-ŕ-vis other subsea operators, EU trading laws are very clear on this, that we can't offer a better deal to Fugro companies than we do to anyone else.

The nature of the product also helps us with confidentiality. The new technology in DeepWorks 2.0 makes it very straightforward to produce proprietary, customer specific components that plug into the customer's copies of DeepWorks, making it easy to keep customers separate and to develop specific modules for individual customers that will not be available to anyone else. This also enables customers to develop their own solutions with their own team members on-site.”

GRL was founded by the late Professor David Broome of University College, London, and is now the world leader in developing customised, subsea simulation products primarily for the offshore oil industry. A number of subsea service providers, including Fugro, Sonsub, DeepOcean and CTC Marine Projects use GRL ROVolution 4.0 ROV pilot trainers and simulators. GRL's unrivalled DeepWorks software is in use for subsea engineering simulation and visualisation. DeepWorks allows users to design, rehearse and monitor (in real-time) the most complex offshore engineering missions, subsea interventions and marine operations. GRL software gets its unique edge from the ability to model the hydrodynamic and physics based properties of real objects and how they behave in the real world, providing a clearer perception and an improved understanding of the underwater work environment. The DeepWorks suite of software tools delivers not only simulation, but can also perform engineering analysis and the 3D animation of complex work tasks.