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Continent offers UK firms mixed prospects

As the uncertainty lingers around the flow of work in the UK, construction firms are increasingly looking abroad for opportunities.

Continental Europe is an obvious place to turn, prospects for success are mixed.

France could offer the best placed firms good opportunities.

“I think you better brush up on your French because that’s where we see the biggest opportunities,” says Crédit Agricole head of project finance Liam O’Keeffe.

“It is going to be hard for UK business involvement unless they have specialist knowledge that the French contractors don’t have.

“But they are already very, very good and there are big companies like Vinci that are really first class.”

Spain is also experiencing activity, adds O’Keeffe, but is again quite well-placed to cope with its own skills supply.

The country has suffered economically, which has seen some work dry up – a situation echoed elsewhere in the Continent.

“In Central Europe we’re not seeing so much where for a while there was a big spurt in roads,” says O’Keeffe.

He adds that while Germany may be seeing such work on the rise “there are companies like Hochtief and Strabag that are very well placed” to cope.

Perhaps more promising, for consultants at least, are markets in northern and eastern Europe says WSP managing director John Harvey.

With major projects like Sweden’s high speed railway, the Ferhmarnbelt crossing between Germany and Denmark and a series of road projects in the Eastern Bloc countries it is easy to see opportunity.

“Working with our European colleagues, in the Scandinavian countries there is a lot of activity. There is also potential in countries like Poland,” he says adding that the most work is coming in the roads and rail sectors.

Energy could provide some opportunities. In the renewables sector for example, spending will have to double to meet 2020 energy targets, European Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger announced last week.

Next month, NCE is relaunching its online Major Projects Hub as the Global Infrastructure Hub. New and invigorated projects will be featured, selected by regional advisory boards. Liam O’Keeffe and John Harvey are both members of the advisory board for UK and Europe.

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