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Pay up to get the best people, says WSP's Cole

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Engineering firms fighting to find top-quality people should be prepared to bust their pay scales, a leading consultant said this week.

'You should pay what you have to get the best people, ' WSP chief executive Chris Cole told NCE as the top five consultant announced its annual results.

'People are the biggest issue we have, ' he said. 'There are things we are not doing because we haven't got the appropriate leaders.

'Our private clients like to see successful people and are prepared to pay accordingly to work with them. Government too has to recognise that it needs to pay for quality.' WSP's results for the year ending December 2006 shows turnover up 20% to £449.4M from £374M and profit up 35% to £27.5M from £20.3M.

Profi t margin rose from 5.5% to 6.8%. WSP's share price on Tuesday was 620p, up from 380p a year ago. 'We have more than exceeded our financial targets of 15% annual revenue growth and a 0.5% increase per annum in adjusted profit margins, ' said Cole.

Twenty-five per cent of the fi rm's revenues come from outside Europe and while competitors are retrenching to the UK to resource the workload here WSP is not.

'I remember bringing people back here in the 1980s. When the market went off and we had no offices overseas we were in trouble.' New markets include Australia, India and Romania.

The firm's Middle East and US business has expanded.

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