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Imtech: What the Dickens is going on?

Oliver Twist is a tale of rags to riches.

Along the way, various protagonists suffer grisly fates, but it has a happy ending. Broadly speaking.

It’s not entirely unlike the tale of Imtech, acquired this week by EDF Energy Services, which has had its ups and downs.

At the risk of stretching the analogy to destruction, it’s also had a spell as an orphan after parent company Imtech NV – a €2bn pan-European technical services provider that purchased it in 2003 – went bust in 2015.

In any event they’re both compelling stories as well as being salutary lessons on the merits of perseverance in the face of adversity.

Few businesses enjoy a trajectory of going from zero to over a half billion turnover in under two decades, albeit largely by acquisition. But this is what the UK and Ireland arm of Imtech (called Meica back in the day) achieved after three Irishmen started the business from a room above a paint shop in the middle of the 1994 downturn.

When founders Jim Steele, Kieran Hynes and Paul Kavanagh hoisted that tricolour into the recessionary air, they had little idea that the business would achieve meteoric success, let alone envisage its later-acquired parent would implode in an untimely manner.

The fact that the home shores business didn’t suffer the same fate of Imtech NV, bought as it was by private equity firm Endless in 2015, is a testament to a firm run on a far sounder footing.

In any event, it’s a business that steps into a bright new future.

But is that future one which is nuclear-powered? And therein, perhaps, lies the rub. How much of Hinkley will EDF be able to let Imtech loose on to deliver associated infrastructure?

Moreover, is it taking a longer-term view on Wylfa, Moorside et al? It seems likely the energy giant will be pushing its new M&E subcontractor to get involved in power station services, whether they be EDF sites or not.

In the meantime, Imtech’s future is a little clearer now that a new parent has been found for it.

Whatever happens, it’s a turnaround story worth following, and much like Oliver, we’re eager for more.

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