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Kordia Solutions Australia

Kordia Solutions Australia is part of the Kordia Group, and has its beginnings in 1962 in New Zealand, eventually becoming Broadcasting Communications Ltd and then Transmission Holdings Limited (THL) in 2003. Kordia operates as a commercial entity and is a State Owned Enterprise (SOE), fully owned by the New Zealand government.

Speaking at his Sydney headquarters, Managing Director Peter Robson explained to Business in Focus what the company does. Telecommunications systems integration service delivery is a bit of a mouthful but, he says, at heart the Australian company is “an engineering services company. We sell services that support the design, construction, operation and maintenance of networks, principally for the major first-tier telecommunications operators. We can design and build their networks for them,” with an end-to-end capability that stretches across the technology aspects as well as the construction. The company can build towers for mobile sites or install technology at sites and for exchanges.

Telcos to varying degrees engage specialised companies such as Kordia to roll out infrastructure. It’s not the telcos’ core business – they operate and market their networks but most have shed significant portions of their network deployment activities.

Growth is substantial and sustainable in such a fast-moving industry, Peter explains. “This is a people business and we make sure we are plugged into high growth sectors.” It is, however, very much a project-based business which means the company needs to be very adept at refreshing the projects on hand at any one time – helped by the way the technology keeps on changing to make it necessary to update even the best-designed systems every few years.

“With the way in which mobile is supplanting fixed, whether it is PCs or fixed line access to the internet, the market has a number of fundamental drivers for sustaining demand for our services,” says Peter. The outlook in the next three to five years is for record expenditure in Australia on mobile networks “and in the energy and natural resources industry there is already something like $100 billion worth of projects under way with another $340 billion planned. While communications is a small element of resources projects, it is becoming increasingly critical. There are good fundamentals in the market just now.”

Kordia Solutions Australia does not have a specific geographical limit and has done work in Southeast Asia, but Peter says export expansion is not a priority at present given the buoyancy of the local market and the danger that working offshore could become a distraction from the company’s focus within Australia.

Kordia works directly for NBN as well as for some of the major constructors of Australia’s nascent broadband highway. “We tend to focus on design and engineering as well as build. We seek out complexity as we provide best value when we provide end to end solutions.” Peter is particularly pleased at the recent winning of a contract with the APLNG coal-seam gas project in Queensland’s Surat Basin, which is a “landmark contract in the CSG industry. It’s a $90 million contract and a critical part of the overall $24 billion project – we are only a small component of the plan but absolutely critical to the operations. It’s a high-profile project and absolutely essential for us to deliver it well. We are absolutely determined to do just that.”

Announcing half-term results recently, Kordia Group’s Chief Executive Officer Geoff Hunt said that Kordia Solutions Australia, under Peter’s leadership, continued its revenue growth, with the six months’ revenues to 31 December exceeding the same period last year. “The company in Australia continues to diversify its service offering and customer base,” said Mr Hunt. “Several major projects concluded in the first half of the financial year, and the second half year is therefore forecast to be significantly softer than the first half year. However, there is a record amount of investment in telecommunications infrastructure projects for key customer planned over the next eighteen months. This indicates a solid longer term outlook for Kordia Solutions Australia,” said Mr Hunt, who stepped down in March after eight years at the helm. Peter now reports directly to the Kordia board.

This “people business” does have one constraint: “one of our peak challenges is finding more and good enough staff,” shares Peter. It’s not about paying people more in a market where demand for good people exceeds supply; rather, “it’s about managing people effectively, giving them development opportunities and building the culture. We put a lot of effort into performance review and development. We treat recruitment as a core business and have our own internal resources plus a database of some 9,000 CVs and we have an apprenticeship programme and a 457s programme. Effective recruitment is a differentiator; getting the right people at the right time is a key skill for us. But there is a looming industry-wide major shortage of skilled communications people.”

Peter agrees that many of the biggest resources corporations could almost certainly benefit from Kordia solutions that they don’t even know about at this stage. “We are building our presence in the energy and natural resources sector but we are something of an untold story in that space. We want to change that.”

He recommends an examination by Kordia’s experts to see what improvements could be made to any company’s communications. “There are so many legacy networks around where huge efficiency gains are available by updating systems and introducing more automation. One of the legacies we have is that we have had outsourced to us aspects of operator capability, particularly in the engineering space, some time ago, and we have an end-to-end telecoms, communications and networks capability that is quite rare in the Australian market.” There are other companies that could replicate some aspects of what Kordia can do, but few if any that could do all of it as a one-stop shop.

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December 16, 2018, 6:42 AM AEDT