Breakdown of MDA takeover talks fails to dent 400-strong consultant’s enthusiasm for an acquisition before July.
Consultant High-Point Rendel, which had abortive talks with quantity surveyor MDA earlier this year, says it is looking at two other private consultants and wants to make an acquisition before its July year-end.

High-Point finance director Stephen Greenwood said the 400-strong firm, which is listed as a support services company on the stock exchange, was still determined to double its size in the UK despite the collapse of takeover talks with MDA in February. Greenwood said that although High-Point Rendel was not planning to resume discussions with MDA, the “fundamentals” of the deal remained valid. “We are still looking for a strong UK business with a good client base and good people,” he said.

High-Point has been under pressure from shareholders to increase its stock market value – which stands at about £15m. Its larger rivals, WS Atkins and WSP, have valuations of £590m and £90m respectively.

Greenwood admitted: “We are a tiny company and [lack of investment] is a problem shared by all small cap companies. Our shareholders would be supportive of the right acquisition.”

We are still looking for a strong UK business with a good client base and good people

Stephen Greenwood, High-Point Rendel

However, he added: “We are not planning to be huge and have lots and lots of people running around sites. We want our hands firmly on the tiller.”

High-Point has been increasing its involvement in high-margin project leadership work and reducing its consulting engineering workload, which Greenwood described as “low margin” with “poor cash flow”. In the past six months, it has shrunk its engineering businesses in Asia. It has also invested £200 000 in beefing up its US presence. This helped it to a pre-tax profit hike of 24% to £1m for the half-year to 31 January 2000. Turnover was up 3.5% to £12.8m.