AUSTRALIAN engineering giant WorleyParsons has predicted a bright future for the North Sea after buying a leading position in the area’s oil services industry at what bosses reckon is the bottom of the market.

Sydney-based WorleyParsons agreed to buy the bulk of the North Sea business developed by Amec Foster Wheeler for around £230 million cash.

Amec Foster Wheeler had to sell the operation to ease regulators’ concerns about the £2.2 billion takeover of its entire business by Wood Group, which completed on Monday.

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Aberdeen-based Wood Group wants to reduce its reliance on the North Sea, where spending on new projects has slumped amid the sharp fall in crude prices from $115 per barrel in 2014 to around $56/bbl.

However WorleyParsons’ chief executive Andrew Wood noted the deal allowed the company to fulfil a long held ambition to become a big player in the North Sea. It is well represented in all the other major markets.

The deal was a pretty easy choice for WorleyParsons.

“We thinks there’s still plenty of life left in supporting existing and developing the remaining assets in the basin,” said Mr Wood.

He added: “We’re not expecting the North Sea to rebound to the seventies, eighties, to justify our decision. We are realistic about what the future of the North Sea looks like but we also believe that we are probably at a low point, so investing at a low point is typically not a bad thing to do as the cycle turns.”

The company has seen indications that spending is set to increase in other areas.

“The industry knows that meeting the worlds’ energy demand is not going to come from US shale alone, it has to come from every basin we work in,” noted Mr Wood. ”We remain quietly confident that activity levels will pick up again.”

Speaking during a visit to Aberdeen Mr Wood provided reassurance on the implications of the deal for jobs at the Amec Foster Wheeler unit, which has around 3,000 employees and contractors working for it.

He said: “We see very few cost synergies in this as it’s coming as a lean and efficient business. They’ve done the hard yards themselves over the last couple of years.”

While the numbers working on projects will fluctuate in line with workloads, Mr Wood observed: “We’ve not gone into this looking for significant reductions or any reductions quite frankly in the core team of the business.”

Around 2,000 people are working for the company on projects.

Operations are run from Aberdeen.

WorleyParsons noted on Monday that the unit’s earnings were underpinned by long term contracts.

Its customer base includes BP, Shell and ConocoPhillips.

The Australian firm has had a very positive response to news of the takeover from customers of Amec Foster Wheeler.

WorleyParsons expects to use the expertise in modifications, maintenance and operations work developed by Amec Foster Wheeler in the North Sea to win work in other parts of the world.

“The skill set here in managing mature basins and and overall execution capability is absolutely world class and held in high regard,” said Mr Wood.

This means that job opportunities could arise overseas.