For a man whose fortunes have fallen nearly $200 million in the past year, former national rugby league player turned businessman Wes Maas is incredibly optimistic.
The 42-year-old, who founded construction materials and real estate company Maas Group, expects his ASX-listed company to nearly double its growth in the next three to five years after he retired from football twenty years ago.
Maas says the driver of that growth will be work generated from an estimated $33 billion in planned federal and state government infrastructure spending in regional New South Wales and Queensland, on projects from hospitals, schools, affordable housing, roads, railways to renewable investments.
“Our outlook for the next three to five years is 30 to 50 percent stronger than the past three to five years, and the basis for that is infrastructure spending in the regional areas of Australia’s eastern states,” said Maas, who played football for South Sydney, before a shoulder injury ended his career in his early twenties.
“From the back of that infrastructure spending, you’re going to see significant population and job growth in the regions. In the housing market in the regions where we are active, you look at a vacancy rate of 0.5 percent, so if you link that to future job growth, you get an accelerated demand for housing.”
Maas Groep has four divisions, real estate, civil construction and rental, building materials and manufacturing. While it has built hubs around regional cities such as Dubbo, Orange, Bathurst and Tamworth in New South Wales, and Rockhampton in central Queensland, it has also been involved in providing equipment and services to some of the largest infrastructure projects in NSW, from the Sydney Metro, Snowy Hydro 2.0 and WestConnex. It is also part of a consortium developing the $70 million Marriott International hotel at Western Sydney Airport.
Stockbroker Morgans, who worked with Moelis on the public listing of Maas Group, has a price target of $5.60 on Mass Group. It’s a bullish forecast in a bear market, especially with investor concerns about rising costs in the construction materials sector and a slowdown in the housing market and economy. The delay has also raised questions about whether federal and state governments will proceed with all of their planned infrastructure projects.
Maas Group was listed on the stock exchange in December 2020 for $2 per share. Last Friday, the shares closed at $4.
Wes Maas still owns 50 percent of the business he started in Dubbo with a single bobcat and a tipper. His stake was worth $760 million a year ago, but with the market decline, the value of that stake has fallen to $590 million.
Maas Group underperformed the broader ASX200 index by 10 percent last year. And while some investors are nervous, Wes Mass has plowed nearly $10 million to acquire more stock in the company he founded.
“I have no better place to invest my money than the company,” he says. “We have a really strong outlook and I know exactly what we’re going to do in the coming years, so I think we’re better positioned today than when we quoted the IPO.”
Maas Group, with 1200 employees, has a vertically integrated model where it manages most of its own supply chain, from owning quarries to heavy earthmoving equipment. It has 31 quarries, 12 concrete mixing plants and 450 machines and equipment for rent. It also owns a factory in Vietnam, which makes underground mining equipment.
“Most of the things we do, we do 80 percent in-house. We are very different from many developers who outsource,” says Maas. “Our costs are our costs. Of course we have seen inflation in housing construction, but we have been able to pass that on in house prices. We have kept our margin. On the infrastructure side, the company is as strong as ever, on the building materials side it is as strong as ever. We have a better forward order book than we have ever had.”
The company has 8,095 residential lots, with plans to sell approximately 550 lots annually. Many of the residential areas that Maas Group is developing include neighborhood shopping, adding to the commercial real estate arm Wes Maas expects to dominate the business over the next three to five years.
In the meantime, Wes Maas sees the current shortage of skilled labor as the biggest challenge for his company rather than the risk of an economic slowdown.
“I don’t have an exit plan.”
Wes Maas, Maas Group CEO
Morgan’s broker Liam Schofield has forecast Maas Group’s net profit to grow from $34.7 million in 2021 to $150.1 million in 2025. He expects the growth to be driven in part by more acquisitions. Maas Groep is aggressively sucking up quarries and service companies, such as Garde, which lays and maintains underground high-voltage cables.
Schofield says he is largely optimistic about the company because of his exposure to regional infrastructure works. “Many of our propositions are driven by regional infrastructure, and it is that vertical integration model as well. They are building a portfolio of residential areas, which they can expand with much of their own product. So we think this gives them the best chance of controlling costs, which is a big problem in this current environment.”
Wes Maas says that the company will continue to grow sustainably. “I don’t have an exit plan. I have always been goal oriented and focused on continuing to build a bigger business.”
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