OPINION: TechnipFMC’s proposal unveiled this week to split itself into a pair of companies, spinning off its onshore-offshore division that has thrived on liquefied natural gas projects, came as something of a surprise.
It especially bucked an industry trend that has been marked over the past few years by already big companies pushing to gobble up smaller peers and competitors.
But it did show for the second time in two years that the people of the company currently known as TechnipFMC have shown both original thinking to re-envision its business and, most importantly, have actually put those ideas into practice.
That is refreshing, particularly in an industry that has historically been slow and, at times, glacial to adapt to change, and also where a tendency exists to copy peers.
Such an approach will no doubt serve the company well in today’s volatile world.
Analysts saw the proposed deal as a sensible move given the limited overlap between the operations of the companies, also pointing out that the different value propositions could attract different investors who might not be interested in the other.
They also noted that TechnipFMC was likely one of few candidates whose operations could independently make up two viable businesses that could realistically generate additional shareholder value.
Via the spin-off company known for now as SpinCo — which is designed to capture both opportunities such as LNG as well as green projects — we also got a glimpse of what an historically massive oil service company could look like in a world that is cutting emissions and weaning itself off fossil fuels amid massive pressure on climate change.
While oil and gas is not going away anytime soon, and the outlook for subsea-based RemainCo is strong because project activity has ticked up recently, the questions over the long-term outlook for the industry cannot be ignored forever (as anybody who has tried to recruit young people for oilfield jobs can attest).
TechnipFMC’s vision of what oilfield services contractors could evolve into beyond the fossil fuel era is one idea.
But the service industry has yet to really publicly grapple with the question, even as global majors like Shell and BP develop comprehensive strategies to deal with the low carbon challenge.
Maybe TechnipFMC should get credit as an early mover in positioning itself and marketing itself as such – and SpinCo might be rewarded by investors accordingly.
Nevertheless, one must admit to a certain fatigue about the constant corporate restructuring that has taken place in the industry since oil prices collapsed five years ago.
And there is a whole other missive that could be written about the resulting disruption to employees and their roles, amid trying to figure out where they fit into this week’s new corporate structure.
Adding to this uncertainty is the fact that not every restructuring proposal, merger or acquisition will be successful.
Whether splitting TechnipFMC into separate entities will succeed in the long-term remains to be seen.
But the London-based player has been successful in creating an integrated subsea offering for the market in its two years of existence, which should instill confidence in investors that this proposed split will also work.
TechnipFMC gained important traction and built out a substantial competitive niche for itself by thinking about the business in a different way — and that also played a major role in shaping the industry around it.
This latest deal may have the potential to do the same.
(This is an Upstream opinion article.)