Engineering consultant Hyder aims to make at least six acquisitions around the world as part of a drive to increase turnover and raise margins.
Hyder revealed the strategy after last week's £14.4m reverse takeover of Firth Holdings, a shell company listed on the alternative investment market. Firth announced a turnover of £158,000 in its last annual results, but the deal was attractive to Hyder because it would give it listed status, with easier access to additional sources of investment.

Tim Wade, chief executive of Hyder, said the company aimed to acquire half a dozen businesses in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Australia. The targets will be firms that employ between 10 and 50 people.

At least one of these businesses will be in Britain.

Wade said Hyder had a shortlist of 10 targets. The aim of a deal would be to improve the margins of its UK design teams.

These acquisitions are needed because Hyder's margins are relatively low. The engineer had a pre-tax profit

of less than £2.7m on turnover of £119.6m for the year ending 31 March – a return of 2.25%. Wade said he expects the firm's profit margin to rise to "the peer group average" within three years.

Rival engineering consultants tend to have margins of between 5% and 10%.

The reverse takeover was ratified last week at Firth's extraordinary general meeting.

Wade said: "This is an excellent next step in the development of Hyder Consulting as a major supplier of client-focused services in the UK and international engineering consultancy services. The listing will give us access to funding for acquisitions and will provide a platform for organic growth."

Firth was previously a holding company for a conglomerate with interests in a range of industries, from steelmakers to property developers. These businesses were sold off, or largely discontinued, in the three years to December 1999.

Firth chairman Sir Alan Thomas has become chairman Hyder Consulting.

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