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Work starts on massive worker housing project

Richard Gilbert

Britco is starting work on the largest project in its 35-year history at a multi-billion dollar power generation project in Manitoba.

“We are proud to be working with Manitoba Hydro and its First Nation and community partners on this important project and look forward to designing and building one of the most advanced workforce accommodations complexes anywhere in Canada,” stated Darren Latoski, CEO of WesternOne Equity (WEQ) Income Fund, which acquired Britco about one and half years ago.

WEQ Britco recently began a contract to design, build and install a 2,000 room workforce accommodation complex for Manitoba Hydro at the Keeyask Generating Station Project, which is currently going through the federal environmental assessment process.

“Not only does the Keeyask Project expand Britco’s project delivery capabilities beyond northern Alberta and British Columbia, but also it further diversifies our customer base by adding a strong renewable energy provider in Manitoba Hydro,” said Latoski.

The Keeyask Hydropower Limited Partnership is proposing to build a 695-megawatt hydroelectric generating station located on the lower Nelson River, about 180 kilometres northeast of Thompson, Manitoba.

The $6.2 billion project involves the construction of a powerhouse complex, spillway, dams, dykes, reservoir, and supporting infrastructure.

It also includes the construction of three 35 kilometre long transmission lines within a single corridor to transmit electricity from the project to the existing Radisson Converter Station near Gillam, Manitoba. Manitoba Hydro began work on the Keeyask Infrastructure Project in early 2012, including preliminary work on access road construction and camp development.

The Britco contract will be undertaken in two phases.

In the first phase, the company will provide 500 dorm rooms as well as a gymnasium, recreation centre, water treatment facilities, kitchen and dining areas. Phase one will be complete in June 2014.

Phase two of the project is subject to Manitoba Hydro receiving regulatory approval, which is expected in early June 2014.

In this phase, Britco will supply and install the remaining 1,500 rooms for the workforce accommodation complex. The rooms will be manufactured at Britco’s two facilities in B.C. and will have private bathrooms and hotel-quality finishes.

The total cost of the two phases of the project are valued at about $207 million, with phase one totaling about $101 million and phase two $106 million.

WEQ acquired Britco in June 2011 for about $93 million. In the following six months, Britco established a modular building manufacturing facility in Waco, Texas and purchased a modular manufacturing business in Edmonton, Alberta.

WEQ’s 2012 third quarter financial results indicated that the company had strong year-over-year growth in consolidated revenue (59 per cent) and gross profit (57 per cent).

Britco had an 88 per cent increase in revenue, compared to Q3 last year.

The growth was due to strong manufacturing activity in the workforce accommodation and infrastructure sectors.

In response to demand, Britco increased its production by accelerating the growth of its workforce at four plants in Agassiz and Penticton, B.C., Edmonton, Alberta and Waco, Texas.

In 2012, Britco created 62 new jobs in B.C.

Currently, Britco employs about 400 people in B.C., 100 people in Alberta and 110 workers in Texas, for a total North America workforce of about 600 people.

In December 2012, Britco entered an agreement along with Black Diamond Group Limited to acquire Australian Portable Buildings Pty Ltd. for an AU$72.5 million.

The acquisition is expected to close this month.

“Australia is one of the largest markets in the world for modular buildings,” said Latoski.

“This transaction represents an excellent entry point for Britco into the Australia market and builds on our recent expansion in Western Canada and the United States.”

WEQ converted to a corporation as of Jan. 1, 2013 to concentrate on the acquisition of privately owned small and medium sized businesses primarily in Western Canada.

WEQ’s businesses operate under two platforms, Britco and WesternOne Rentals.

Britco was founded in 1977 by partners Rick McClymont and David Taft with a small staff at a 10,000 sq. ft. factory located in Langley.

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