Belfast Telegraph

British maritime security firm anticipates business boost with Trump presidency

Donald Trump's plans to ramp up military spending are expected to provide a boost for British maritime security firm MAST, its chief executive has said.

MAST - which provides services like armed security, training, counter-privacy, and system installations - could see demand for private security rise if the US president-elect follows through with plans to increase military investment.

Chief executive Phil Cable told the Press Association that it is an "interesting time" for his company.

"I suspect Donald Trump will be strong on defence and support the military spending ...

"So I think for us, as a security business, in that sort of sector, and in areas of concern, there may be some opportunities for us to work with US security companies."

In a speech to the Union League of Philadelphia in September, Mr Trump said he would reverse cuts to military spending that took place as part of the 2013 budget sequester, and submit a new budget to "rebuild" the military once he takes office.

MAST said the US government had historically been one of the largest employers of private security, and that the company had supported the US State Department as a sub-prime contractor for projects including a diver training programme in the past.

The company, which launched in 2005, has struggled to match peak revenues of 50 million US dollars (£40 million) which it reached back in 2012.

Since then, it has had to contend with a sharp downturn in the shipping industry, which it also services.

"We went through a period like our particular sector of some quite rapid changes in market conditions, and consolidation ... massive price corrections and pressures and so for about a period of about a year, it was a very difficult trade."

MAST "sustained a certain level of losses," and was forced to restructure, Mr Cable explained.

Revenue projections for 2016 are around 15 million US dollars (£12 million), with gross profit margins of around 10%. That is up from turnover of 14.6 million US dollars (£11.7 million) a year earlier.

But MAST's super-yacht business has been relatively resilient, compared to the rest of its portfolio.

"For super-yachts, there was a degree of downturn in the new build market, but inevitably with those that have extreme wealth ... I wouldn't say they're immune to global downturns but they're less affected."

Mr Cable does not believe Brexit will present similar challenges for the business, given the company's international model.

The firm, which has its headquarters in the UK, has actually benefited from income in stronger currencies like the US dollar, following sterling's collapse in the wake of the referendum.

"Regardless of any political view, I don't think we've really seen the effects of it yet," he said.

"It's quite speculative. Obviously markets are in turmoil but that's often short-term speculation."

He stressed that MAST was committed to having its headquarters in the UK, though very little of its business originated in Britain.

The company located its headquarters temporarily in Malta, partly for tax purposes, but returned to the UK in 2014.

"Even though we're now headquartered in the UK and paying more tax, it's actually not the right way to focus," he said.

"It's much more efficient, it works better."

Mr Cable added: "From a business perspective, UK incorporated is still a solid place to do business."

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