Weatherford acquire Austoil, move into NZ

Oilfield service giant Weatherford International has bought New Plymouth-based Austoil Engineering Services Ltd and is now operating in New Zealand in its own right.

Weatherford International Inc. and Austoil Engineering Services Ltd sealed the deal in late March and the name Austoil has now disappeared and been replaced by Weatherford New Zealand Limited.

The takeover, for an undisclosed sum, is a vote of confidence in New Zealand's bubbling energy industry and has thrilled New Plymouth general manager Denis Fernandes and financial director Euan Saunders.

"Weatherford coming into New Zealand is a big step forward for the service sector. We already have Schlumberger and Halliburton and now we have Weatherford operating here in their own right," says Fernandes.

"Weatherford has retained all Austoil staff, keeping the same management team, so it's pretty much business as usual."

Saunders says the emphasis now will be on bringing Weatherford's wealth of expertise, in a myriad of drilling and production applications, to New Zealand.

"Weatherford had a good look at the New Zealand scene and decided they wanted a direct involvement."

Fernandes says the Weatherford-Austoil link, started years ago when Austoil became the New Zealand alliance partner for Weatherford.

"It's great Weatherford is actually making the commitment to operate in its own right and this shows its belief of significant activity in New Zealand for the next five or six, perhaps even eight years."

The New Plymouth office will report directly to Weatherford's Australian division headquartered in Perth.

Austoil started in New Plymouth 20 years ago as a subsidiary of the Australian Austoil Drilling Services company and has grown to employ almost 40 people, offering a comprehensive range of drilling, tubular management and engineering services from its New Plymouth facility.

Austoil has worked with most oil and gas explorers in New Zealand, from Shell Petroleum Mining to Swift Energy New Zealand and smaller players such as Indo-Pacific Energy and Westech.

Austoil won an export award about four years ago for its design and manufacture of mechanical friction-reducing downhole equipment for use in horizontal and extended reach wells. It sold the worldwide rights for that equipment to Weatherford and has since manufactured some machinery under licence for Weatherford for sale in the worldwide oil field market.

Weatherford International is one of the top five oilfield service companies in the world, offering customers mechanical technology and specialized services that focus on the drilling and production sectors. It operates from more than 300 worldwide locations in over 50 countries, and employs over 10,000 people globally.

It is split into four divisions: drilling and intervention services, completion systems, artficial lift systems and compression services.