When Soraya Narfeldt married her husband Lars in 2002, he took her to Kabul, Afghanistan, for their honeymoon. Some women might have objected to the choice of location. Narfeldt loved it.
The couple stayed on in the war-torn country and Narfeldt volunteered for the United Nations, helping to administer and distribute supplies for staff and locals. She soon realised that the procurement process was chaotic. Products were ordered piecemeal, specifications were often wrong and money was wasted, Narfeldt believed.
She decided to found her own company, providing a one-stop shop for organisations working in remote or difficult locations. Today, RA International is valued on the stock market at more than £120 million. The company floated on Aim a fortnight ago, the shares are 69½p and they should move higher as the business expands and profits increase.
On the spot: RA International, founded by Soraya Narfeldt, right, operates in remote crisis zones such as South Sudan, above
RA builds, services and maintains sites for UN agencies, Western governments, including the UK, and large multinational companies. Some customers want small camps to accommodate staff for a specific job. Others are looking for barracks, large buildings or even mini-cities.
In each case, RA can provide not just the basic buildings but also the surrounding infrastructure, such as roads, electricity and water. It also offers catering facilities, cleaning, maintenance and repairs. Much of the group’s work involves peacekeeping or humanitarian projects in African countries such as South Sudan and Mozambique. In recent times, it has built accommodation for a UN peacekeeping force in the Central African Republic, completed the British embassy in Somalia, contributed to the French embassy in South Sudan and delivered a camp for the Ministry of Defence in Somalia, including accommodation, a kitchen, power, water, even mobile phone towers.
Commercial clients include a mining company, operating a camp 16 hours’ drive from the nearest large city. RA services the camp, ensuring sufficient food and water for two months in case floods render the location inaccessible. Above all, the company makes sure that sites work so organisations can focus on their missions or business, without having to worry about construction, catering or maintenance issues.
Frequently, this involves significant research and Narfeldt has become known for asking probing questions. Does the customer know that this particular area is subject to serious flooding twice a year? Do they know that the local port closes down for Ramadan? Have they thought about mobile transmission, water, fresh food for the troops, and so on?
This attention to detail has earned RA a reputation for diligence and efficiency, and most customers use the group time and again. The company is also highly profitable, not least because Narfeldt chooses her customers carefully, focusing on large, well-funded and reputable organisations. Revenues were £53 million in 2017, up 44 per cent from the previous year, while profits more than doubled – from £5 million to £13.6 million. Looking ahead, further robust growth is expected, as RA already has a backlog of contracts valued at £91 million. The company intends to pay a progressive dividend, too.
Midas verdict: RA International has grown consistently since it was founded 14 years ago. Customers are loyal, the business is expanding and much of the work is highly beneficial to African communities and local economies. At 69½p, the shares offer good, long-term potential and the chance to invest in a business with an ethical dimension, too.
Traded on: Aim Ticker: RAI Contact: ragrpplc.co.uk or 020 3934 6630