IT specialist plans to create £200m-turnover operation by buying 10 firms and focusing on regeneration.
Capita's construction consultancy arm is planning to double its turnover to £200m by 2005. If it is successful, it will be one of the industry's largest firms, alongside the huge multidisciplinary outfits such as Atkins and Arup.

Capita Property Consultancy said it was looking at making about 10 acquisitions to achieve the turnover target, which was set by managing director Richard Marchant.

Marchant, who took over the £91m-turnover arm last summer, said he was looking to make his first buy in the second half of this year.

He said: "We have a longlist of potential acquisitions – 10 sounds about right. We are not looking at small businesses, but at the strategic acquisition of firms with 100-plus staff."

Marchant said organic growth would come from public sector markets such as health, defence and infrastructure. The firm has 2000 staff including architects, QSs, project managers and engineers.

Capita's business strategy will be to increase the amount of PFI and regeneration work it undertake – a plan that was formulated by business development director Roger MacDonald, who joined from Mace at the start of the year.

Marchant said the firm would stop short of becoming an equity partner in PFIs or doing blue-collar facilities management work.

Ten acquisitions sounds about right. We’re looking at firms with 100-plus staff

Richard Marchant

He said: "We are not looking at growth at the expense of a reduction in margins. If you look at the Capita group results you will see margin improvement throughout the overall business."

Capita is best known for providing IT solutions to the public sector. Marchant hopes to use this expertise as a lever for selling local authorities property-related services.

This would mean that when Capita talks to a council about running its payroll or pensions systems, it could also offer construction services. In the case of regeneration, the firm hopes to go beyond council funds and tap into European and central government grants.

Marchant added that Capita was targeting regional development agencies as potential clients.

He said: "We have a range of skills to offer agencies, from masterplanning to implementation and delivery. We are investing a lot of time in attracting them."

Marchant said the roads market had particular potential – the government announced a £7bn roadbuilding programme last week.

Raising Capita’s profile

Richard Marchant reckons that Capita Property Consultancy is a hidden dragon compared with higher-profile multidisciplinary consultants such as Atkins, Arup and EC Harris. The subsidiary’s parent, which runs London’s congestion charge and the television licensing system, gains most publicity.

Marchant joined the firm from its management consultancy arm last August with a mission to raise the firm’s profile. “If you put all the components of this firm together and present them under one brand it looks very, very strong. In fact, it looks unique.”

Marchant said he had been particularly impressed by the quality of the staff, and that he wanted to bring the best out of them. “The biggest thing that frustrates people isn’t pay but inconsistent management and leadership. We want to improve personal development and training among the staff,” he said.