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WSP Group seeks consultancy 'with an international flavour'

WSP GROUP has re-confirmed its intention to buy a significant international consultancy as part of a strategy to double its turnover in the next three years.

The company said last year that it was planning a major acquisition (NCE 10 September 1998) but managed to spend only £3.19M. It bought structural engineer HJT and environmental consultant Solmek, as well as increasing its stakes in South African firms WEVS and MBS to 76%.

But group finance director Malcolm Paul said it was now targeting a larger civil engineering business 'with an international flavour' and a turnover of £10M-£20M in the next 12 months.

'We want to build our civil engineering turnover from something like £27M this year to £40M in a relatively short time,' he said.

The group strategy is to lift turnover from £77.4M in 1998 to £150M in 2001. This could make WSP one of the UK's five largest consulting engineering consultants.

Paul said the group would combine acquisitions with strong organic growth of about 10% a year. Its main aim is to increase its international presence. This year it has already opened offices in Hungary, Poland and Singapore.

Group profits before tax for the first half of the year were up 34% to £3.01M on turnover up 24% to £46.5M. Civil engineering margins were up from 3.3% to 4.5% thanks to repeat workload.

WSP currently employs around 2,000 people in 50 offices in the UK and overseas.

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