Driving up the turnover of the newly-merged WSP Genivar from £1.25bn to £2bn is the immediate goal of the new firm’s first chairman Chris Cole.
Speaking exclusively to NCE, the former WSP chief executive said that his short-term target was expansion through acquisition, with a UK programme management firm his first target.
Cole outlined his immediate plans ahead of the formal completion last week of Genivar’s £278M take over of WSP. The combined firm will trade as WSP Genivar.
The sale was driven by Cole’s desire to get WSP back to growth.
Like many UK-based consultants, the economic downturn has hit turnover, profit and staff numbers.
“It’s been a frustrating time these last four years,” said Cole. “For a while it’s good because you are surviving. But going sideways loses its excitement after a while.”
Cole said that he had no plans to change the focus of the firm from “pure” consultancy and design, in which Genivar and WSP both specialise, adding that he was not attracted to contracting “in any shape or form”.
But Cole accepted that the firm lacks programme management skills. “Would we buy into programme management?” he asked. “Yes, we would, but only to provide a service to the group.”
Cole would not say who was on his shopping list, but admitted that a UK player was likely.
“You have only got to look at the places where they [programme management firms] are. The UK and parts of North America are where they are.”
Acquisitions to boost WSP Genivar’s presence in the US and Australia and in transport and energy are also planned. But Cole warned that there would be no deals until 2013.