The freeing up of the logjam in the awarding of government rail contracts had seen
AltX-listed rail track measurement and signalling company Ansys claw its way back to profitability in the second half of the financial year ended February 28.

Ansys CEO Allan Holloway said on Tuesday that the company had managed revenue of around R41-million in the first half of the year, with the second half recording much better results as government finally opened its purse.

Revenue for the financial year ended at R120-million, compared with R121,9-million in the previous year.

Holloway added that the company now had hopes that a R1-billion signalling contract would boost revenue for the new financial year significantly.

This tender was for the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa), formerly Metrorail and the SA Rail Commuter Corporation, to upgrade signalling systems and build a central control centre for the Gauteng region, he explained.

The tender was expected to close June 30.

Other regions were expected to follow suit.

“We been waiting for these tenders to materialise for three years,” said Holloway. “This is one of the biggest tenders of its kind to materialise in a decade.”

The signalling systems for South Africa’s passenger rail systems were, “in general, 30 years old”, he explained. “Some are even still manual.”

Holloway said little had been spent on upgrading and replacing these signalling systems over the past 20 years.

“Unfortunately, it took a few accidents to galvanise government into action.”

Earlier this month, an estimated 200 people had been injured after two trains collided at the Wonderboom train station, north of Pretoria.

At the time, the Railway Safety Regulator had noted that “it already begun targeted audits focusing on communications and signalling infrastructure as part of a broader exercise to ensure the integrity of safety critical infrastructure in the rail environment, inclusive of the rolling stock”.

The R1-billion tender was more work than all the South African companies active in the signalling market could manage, added Holloway.

Prasa would “need to do some industry management”.

Holloway said the scope of the R1-billion tender could be divided between all the companies – four of them – in the local industry.

Ansys was putting in two bids, namely one to supply Prasa with General Electric systems, and the other to supply it with Westinghouse equipment.

“Typically these systems would have around 50% local content,” noted Holloway.

He added that the group currently had an order book of R80-million, which was “a considerable improvement on the order situation this time last year”.

Ansys recorded profit before interest and taxation of R3-million for the 2009 financial year, compared with R25-million for the previous year.

PUBLICATION: Engineering News
AUTHOR: Irma Venter
DATED: 12th May 2009