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Mott MacDonald "stunning year" earns it NCE/ACE International Firm Award

Mott MacDonald had a stunning year in the international market, for the first time earning more overseas than in the UK and underlying its role as a genuinely global player. The firm is this year’s winner of the NCE/ACE International Consultant Award

Mott MacDonald’s top three overseas projects are stunners and are sited in India, China, and the Middle East. They more than compete for profile with the firm’s UK work which includes roles on Crossrail, the East London Line and London’s Victoria Station

Delhi Metro, where the firm is providing detailed civil and structural permanent works design; Macau City of Dreams in China where the business is helping masterplan the £1.05bn gaming resort; and the Arabian Canal in Dubai, the largest excavation ever attempted in the UAE, perfectly illustrate the scale of Mott’s global ambitions.

The firm’s five year development plan set out to achieve a 40/60 split in workload between the UK and the rest of the world. In the last year, 2008, it managed a 45/55 split, compared to 52/48 in 2007,  putting it well on track to meet its goal. Overseas turnover amounted to £411.34M and on 2 January, out of a total staff of 14,477, 7021 were working on overseas projects.

Current top three overseas clients are Shell International, Transnet – which is part of the South African government – and the European Union, all of which help underline Mott’s international spread.

North Americahas been proving particularly positive for the business. With revenues over £210M and staff numbers approaching 2000, Hatch Mott MacDonald is becoming a leading player in the area. The transport business in the United States and Canada is particularly strong and the company has gained significant expertise in working with US federal clients.

The £3.5bn modernisation of Los Angeles International Airport and the Catskill & Delaware Aqueduct project in New York are just two mega-projects the firm has won along with significant work in the gas pipelines sector.

In Canada, Mott has road, rail aviation and tunnelling projects.

In India, revenue has grown by 50% each year for the last four years and the company expects to achieve 30% growth there in 2009, reaching £26M turnover. It aims to double staff numbers to 3,000 in the next five years.

Two MRT lines and the east-west Marina Coastal Expressway are part of a strong portfolio of projects in Singapore; the Hong Kong office is working on tunnel and railway projects for HK MassTransportation Railways, and in Vietnam there’s a five year contract with the Asian Development Bank-funded Song Bung 4 hydropower project.

In the Middle East, business is still strong, says chief executive Keith Howells. “The slow down in Dubai has hit everyone, but Libya, Abu Dhabi and Bahrain are holding up.” The group earned 10% of its turnover in the region last year.

In South Africa, the company’s expansion has been driven by work on the Transnet programme, involving the upgrade of 2,000km of railway and nine ports. The business is also now diversifying with projects in Zambia, Southern Sudan, Nigeria, and Uganda.

“Our aim [as a global business] is to use local staff to respond to local needs,” says Howells. “We want to provide solutions that are appropriate and sensitive to cultural, environmental, economic and social conditions but backed by global engineering expertise and resource.”

KEY FACTS

Staff working overseas 6,669

Staff working on overseas projects 7,021

Turnover, North America £148M

Work in hand North America £220M

Turnover, Middle East £78.1M

Work in hand Middle East £80M

Turnover, Western Europe £49.3M

Work in hand, Western Europe £50M

Turnover South East Asia £41.1M

Work in hand South East Asia £60M

Finalist: RPS

RPS has had a good year by anyone’s standards, with the business growing by 30% in the last 12 months. Much of that growth has been down to rapid expansion in the international market, with 62% of the company’s turnover now coming from outside the UK.

During 2008 RPS made 10 acquisitions, widening its geographical spread and consolidating its position as a leading consultant in the energy and environmental sectors. The firm now has a significant presence in the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, Australia, United States and Canada, and advises on projects in over 100 other countries.

Five of those acquisitions were in the energy sector, helping to make RPS a global leader in geosciences, engineering, environmental, health and safety and risk management advice to the oil and gas exploration and production industry. The company’s portfolio contains more than 500 energy projects in over 100 countries for more than 300 clients.

The firm says that growth in the energy and environmental markets was partially driven by growing demand for energy resources, as well as both government and private clients “beginning to take climate change issues seriously”. In 2008 the company won the EU Best Practice in Environmental Awareness award for its work on ‘Notice Nature,’ a national biodiversity awareness campaign in Ireland. This – and a commission to help the Irish government with its “Race against Waste” campaign – have helped raise RPS’s international profile significantly.

Finalist: Hyder

Hyder is – and always has been – a truly international business, with 60% of its current staff based outside the UK, and no single geographical region contributing more than 35% of overall revenue.

With a pedigree that goes back to Sydney Harbour Bridge and London’s Tower Bridge, it is perhaps not surprising to see the firm involved in iconic structures like the word’s tallest building, the Burj Dubai, and the surrounding 219ha Downtown Burj Dubai development. Work on the project included masterplanning, infrastructure design, construction supervision and environmental advice – demonstrating the firm’s wide spectrum of services.

Other recent commissions include the Hale Street Link in Brisbane, Frankfurt and Berlin international airports, China’s Chi Feng, Ji Zhao, Yaojiang airport road and Fen River bridges, and Hong Kong’s Greening masterplan – a 17, 830ha project for which Hyder is lead consultant.

The company’s global nature enables it to harness skills from around the world on any project. When putting together its bid entry for the Te Wero bridge competition in New Zealand, teams in the UK, Australia and New Zealand worked together to produce the winning entry. The team was able to work, literally, around the clock, with designers in the UK taking over from their Australian colleagues at the end of their working day.

Hyder’s overseas work was recognised in 2008 when the firm won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise – International Trade, acknowledging a massive 66% increase in international sales over the last three years.

Despite the current economic climate, the firm still plans to keep growing in all its key markets in Europe, Australasia, the Far East and Middle East, seeing new business opportunities coming from rising demand for infrastructure around the world.

The International award is sponsored by BST Global, a leading global provider of business performance management solutions for architectural, environmental and engineering consultancy firms and project-driven professional services organisations.

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