EXITING HALCROW chairman Tony Allum warned last week that the business must make itself more cash positive if it is to avoid being purchased by a larger firm.
Allum, 65, is retiring from Halcrow at the end of June.
The company has had a strong performance over the last few years and has successfully broken into the notoriously difficult US market. But a growing pension deficit - £74M in 2005 - will mean the Halcrow board will have to concentrate on cash generation (News last week).
'We will need to put strong emphasis on the cash side if we want to maintain our indepence, ' Allum said.
'We are very attractive, particularly to US businesses. But we want to remain masters of our own destiny and maintain our culture which is very special to us.' That means, Halcrow staff optimising returns from projects as well as producing wonderful engineering.
He said the business, would also look at expanding into operation and maintenance in the motorway, water and property sectors while increasing Ministry of Defence work and work in the nuclear industry.
Allum's successor is 59 year old one time mechanical engineer and former Devonport Royal Dockyard executive chairman Tony Pryor. 'I am joining a lovely business with enormous prospects, ' he said.
'Halcrow has grown rapidly and we will be focusing on consolidating that. We have a strong brand that could be made stronger. I want us to be global player like Bechtel.'