Teh Wing Kwan, group CEO of engineering firm Sapphire Corp, is happy when he can’t reach his China-based colleagues at their offices. “That means they are out, doing something,” he said during a briefing on Jan 10. The weeks leading up to the Chinese New Year, which falls on Jan 28 this year, tend to be especially busy for Sapphire’s staff because a lot of tenders close around that time, Teh says. And, he is hoping that Sapphire’s order book, which stood at RMB2.8 billion ($581 million) as at Sept 30, 2016, will get a boost soon.

Sapphire now focuses on civil engineering works for the railway sector in China. The Singapore-listed company was originally in the construction business. It then ventured into steel production. When a massive oversupply of steel in China caused a glut and drew red ink, the company tried to move into vanadium processing. That did not work out either. Since coming on board three years ago, Teh has been restructuring the company. Specifically, he focused the group around a unit called Ranken, which was acquired in late 2015 for RMB360.4 million to drive the China engineering business. The various old businesses are being sold.

On Dec 30, the company said it had inked an agreement to sell 81% of its wholly-owned subsidiary Mancala Holdings, an Australia-based mining services company, for HK$63.2 million ($11.7 million), which will net the company $0.2 million. The buyers are Hong Kong-listed China Vanadium Titano-Magnetite Mining Co Ltd, which will be taking a 49% stake; and Toe Teow Heng, a fund manager (32%). Sapphire’s proceeds will be in the form of HK$28.2 million in cash and HK$35 million worth of CVT shares.