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Consultants File Awards 2010: International Award

Long-term stability and a solid growth strategy have resulted in yet another good year for Mott MacDonald in the international market, with 65% of its business coming from outside the UK. The firm is the winner of this year’s NCE/ACE International category.

Winner: Mott MacDonald

For the third year in a row Mott MacDonald is NCE/ACE International Consultant of the Year. And with good reason. The company’s 20-year strategy of growth and diversity by sector, discipline and geography continues to pay dividends, as the firm appears to have ridden out the worst of the recession in 2009, and turnover has this year hit £1bn for the first time.

Mott MacDonald says the diversity strategy is designed to protect the company against a downturn in any one sector or market and this move has seen the firm avoid redundancies and pay cuts that have taken place at some of its competitors.

The company regards itself as “a global consultant with UK headquarters rather than a UK consultant with international operations”.

Certainly, its operations are now truly global: 65% of its income is from outside the UK, and 6,450 of its staff work overseas. It has projects in 140 countries and permanent offices in 50 of them, including new bases opened during the last year in Serbia, Turkey, Albania and Kazakhstan.

Wherever it works Mott MacDonald is determined to adhere to the highest ethical standards launching a mandatory ethics course for staff.

In recent months the company has landed significant roles on international landmark projects including the £10bn Tianjin Eco City in China, Vancouver’s £1.5bn Port Mann/Highway 1 upgrade and the £110M rehabilitation of the Nara irrigation system in Sindh, Pakistan.

At Tianjin, Mott MacDonald has a 10-year appointment to draw up and oversee implementation of design guidelines for the city, which will house 350,000 people and set international standards for sustainability.

Other significant recent projects include the 46,000-capacity Mbombela stadium in Nelspruit, South Africa, one of the venues for this summer’s football World Cup, and a deal to support Shell on products distribution engineering projects in 10 countries across the Middle East and South East Asia.

Like Shell, many of Mott MacDonald’s customers operate internationally, and the consultant has moved with them into new markets.

One strategy for anticipating and responding to emerging market needs has been to transfer knowledge from the centres of expertise it has set up around the world.

The company’s priority is to get closer to its clients, and bring in strategies from different sectors to develop more refined solutions

A major centre of tunnelling excellence has been built up in Budapest, Hungary, which is now helping on projects across Eastern Europe and in India. And a centre of water expertise in Ahmedabad, India, is being used to help customers in the Middle East and Europe.

Wherever it works Mott MacDonald is determined to adhere to the highest ethical standards. The company has launched a mandatory ethics course for staff and raised awareness of its confidential helpline for any employees who want to share concerns. Corporately the firm is engaged with Transparency International and the UK Anti-Corruption Forum.

Looking ahead, Mott MacDonald anticipates that clients’ priorities for the next two years will include balancing potentially conflicting demands, such as reducing both costs and carbon while complying with tighter environmental legislation.

The company’s response is to get closer to its clients, and bring in strategies from different sectors to develop more refined − and more efficient − solutions.

Key facts

Staff 14,200
Staff overseas 6,450
Total turnover £1.016bn
Work overseas 65%
Biggest sectors Power, rail, water supply, roads
Predicted growth areas Power, oil and gas

Finalist: RPS

RPS chief executive Alan Hearne

RPS chief executive Alan Hearne

Like many international consultants RPS is predicting that Australasia will be a growth area in the next few years. However, the firm has stolen a march on many of its rivals with a strategic acquisition that not only gives it a foothold in the region but also takes it into new market sectors.

Brisbane-based Conics (now rebranded as RPS) was one of the largest planning, surveying, design and environmental consultancies in the southern hemisphere, and its acquisition gives RPS almost 1,000 staff in Australia and South East Asia. It also means the company now does over 60% of its business outside the UK.

During 2009 RPS’s business held up well in North America and the Netherlands, compensating to a certain extent for a 15% drop in UK staff numbers.

The company has opened its first operational Middle Eastern office in Abu Dhabi after winning a competition to be masterplanner for a desert city

The company also opened its first operational Middle Eastern office in Abu Dhabi, on the back of winning a competition to be masterplanner for a new industrial city on a 6 sq km desert site. Construction of the project’s first phase started last year, with a further three phases to follow.

Elsewhere, RPS is providing ground survey control expertise for a major audit of the Murray- Darling Basin in Australia, an area that covers 14% of the country but accounts for 70% of its irrigated crop and pasture land.

It is also carrying out a feasibility study into an offshore power grid linking the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

In the next few years the company expects its clients to face increased pressure from legislation and government regulation, and it says they will want to engage in carbon reduction activities, as well as securing energy and water supply. The recent acquisition of Conics helps RPS to offer answers to these problems in a wide geographic area.

Key facts

Total staff 4,369
Fees £445M
Work overseas 60%
Biggest sectors Geotechnical, power, water supply
Predicted growth areas USA, Australia

Finalist: Hyder Construction

Hyder will be looking for new markets in the Middle East

Hyder will be looking for new markets in the Middle East

Hyder Consulting has been a multi-national company for much of its 150-year history and 72% of its revenues come from outside the UK.

The changes in culture and approach that have been introduced to the business over the last year under new chief executive Ivor Catto have had an upbeat impact on revenues and shareholder value internationally.

Half-year results in November 2009 for the firm’s international (non-UK) operations show turnover up 10.7% from £99M to £109.5M, adjusted operating profit up 19.8% from £7M to £8.4M and margin up 0.6% from 7.1% to 7.7%.

Hyder’s focus for the future is in the stronger Asia Pacific markets and away from Dubai

“This,” says the company “is a significant team achievement, particularly when you take into consideration the changes that we have taken on and that this has been a year of recession.”

Not surprisingly, the achievement the company is most proud of is the beautiful Burj Khalifa in Dubai − the world’s tallest free-standing structure.

The company’s focus for the future is in the stronger Asia Pacific markets and diversification in the Middle East away from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. In the UK and in Germany − where Hyder is the sixth largest consultancy − the company is looking to help the public sector “achieve more with less”.

Australia is proving fertile ground for Hyder. It is working with the Australian government on providing upgraded schools across the country.

Key facts

Staff working overseas 2,826
Overseas turnover £216.99M
Work overseas 72%
Top three projects Building Education Revolution, Australia, M80 Ring Road, Australia; Immersed Tube Tunnels, Hong Kong


The International Award is sponsored by BST Global


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