Exclusive: Hurley Palmer Flatt appoints new group chief executive tasked with expanding the firm through acquisitions overseas

Paul Flatt

Engineer Hurley Palmer Flatt has appointed a new group chief executive tasked with expanding the firm through acquisitions overseas.

Incoming group chief executive Ian Sparks has previously held top positions in services firm FirstAssist and measurement equipment manufacturer Casella. Current chief executive David Young will retain his position with a focus on the UK business.

Paul Flatt, chair of Hurley Palmer Flatt, said that Sparks would be charged with expanding the firm overseas through acquisitions. “We want to bolster the firm with some strategic acquisitions,” he said.

“To take [us to] that next level of growth we need people to focus on that and focus on overseas.”

“When you do an acquisition it’s a distraction and we wanted the business to be able to run exactly as it is.”

Flatt said he expected the firm to buy a business within the next 12 months and was targeting Hong Kong.

In February 2011 Hurley Palmer Flatt agreed an investment of £14m from private equity firm Isis Equity Partners, which the finance firm said was to help fund “future acquisitions”.

He said the firm had been taking its time over potential acquisitions.  “We like to get to know management teams and watch a business for at least six months … Going out and doing an acquisition on an ego basis is a good way of damaging your business,” he said.

He said the firm was set to report revenue of £23.8m for the year to 31 March 2012 - the year for which results are most recently available - down from £26m in 2011, with pre-tax profit around £2.4m, down from £2.7m in 2011.