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Hyder Consulting to axe up to 400 jobs in UK and Australia

Hyder Consulting is to cut its 5,000 global workforce by 8% despite its order book growing to almost £400M, with some UK regional offices to close completely.

In an Interim Management Statement covering the period from 1 October 2008 to 11 February 2009 the firm said that its order book had grown to almost £400M due to some major project wins both in the UK and overseas.

In the UK it has secured a four year flood modelling framework with the Environment Agency, in the Middle East it has won a four year deal to design sewerage schemes in Abu Dhabi and is to provide masterplanning for the PK Resort in Bahrain. Further afield it is providing site supervision on Australia's Brenner rail line and is to work on the Tangshan New Town Road project in Hong Kong.

In addition, it has secured a position on all seven framework contracts for Europe’s largest construction project, Crossrail, covering tunnels and shafts, stations, portals, rail systems, communications and control systems.

Despite this, the firm said it was restructuring to "streamline and better align its service offerings with the markets and sectors in which it operates". In addition, it has "responded to market conditions by reducing headcount and overhead expenditure".

As a result of these initiatives, headcount will reduce by 8% at a one-off, exceptional cost of £8M. The move will lead to annualised cost savings of some £4M.

The firm also failed to rule out further redundancies later in the year.

"The Board will remain vigilant in managing the Group’s operations through the current global downturn," said the statement.

The redundancies will be made in poor-performing markets and regions and some UK regional offices are to close.

"The Group has seen some slowdown in the UK and Australia with delays in government expenditure on infrastructure projects and a lower workload in the property sector, though our exposure in the latter is relatively small," said the statement.

"In the UK we are closing some of our smaller satellite offices and, as in Australia, reducing our overhead costs."

The firm said that the rest of its global operation continued to perform well.

"With 65% of revenue earned overseas, Hyder is well diversified internationally, and also across market sectors. In the short term, the difficult trading conditions in our markets make us cautious as to the final outcome for the current financial year. Looking forward, however, the restructuring of our operations and our low gearing gives management confidence for the future.

"In Germany our two recent acquisitions are performing well though we remain cautious about the economic outlook there. We remain well placed in East Asia as governments spend in order to boost economic growth.

"The Group’s business in the Middle East is performing well, benefiting from our longstanding presence in the region. In Dubai the recent slowdown in the property market has led to a small number of project cancellations, and some delays in contract payments. Elsewhere in the region, we have substantial operations notably in Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Bahrain, and remain confident of further growth."

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