The papers are gushing today about the $1.1 billion acquisition of Canada’s oil services company Colt Group by Perth-based engineering company WorleyParsons.

The AFR’s Street Talk column even quotes UBS, which is running the $480 million rights issue, as predicting the shares will hit $30.20. WorleyParsons shares are suspended whilst the raising is bedded down but they last traded at just $22.60.

If co-founder and CEO John Grill takes up his full entitlement and the mooted re-rating does indeed come through, he’ll quickly join the exclusive club of Australians with a paper holding exceeding $1 billion. At the moment, he’s ranked 15th as the following list demonstrates:

Top 15 personal or family holdings in Australian listed companies

1. News Corp, Rupert Murdoch: $11.95 billion

2. PBL, James Packer: $5.25 billion

3. Westfield, Frank Lowy: $3.81 billion

4. Aristocrat, Ainsworth family: $2.33 billion

5. Reece Australia, Wilson family: $1.74 billion

6. Fortescue Metals, Andrew Forrest: $1.62 billion

7. Harvey Norman, Gerry Harvey: $1.44 billion

8. Transpacific Industries, Terry Peabody: $1.29 billion

9. Seven Network, Kerry Stokes: $1.08 billion

10. Multiplex, Roberts family: $1.03 billion

11. David Coe, Allco Finance Group: $937 million

12. Rural Press, Fairfax family: $862 million

13. Ramsay Healthcare, Paul Ramsay: $846 million

14. Billabong, Gordon Merchant: $804 million

15. Worley Parsons, John Grill: $732 million

WorleyParsons is a fantastic success story in anyone’s language. Whilst Australia has failed to develop a global oil or gas company, WorleyParsons is quickly emerging as a serious global player when it comes to oil and gas services and engineering.

The stock was floated at just $2 a share four years ago and is about to have a capitalisation in excess of $6 billion if this predicted share price surge does indeed come through.

It didn’t get lucky with resource discoveries or make billions gouging captive Australian customers like the bank cartel, but is instead a genuine success story in a competitive global industry. If only Australia had developed more companies like WorleyParsons.

Peter Fray

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