Debt-free consulting engineer aims to buy niche specialists for services arm – money no object.
Cash-rich consulting engineer Mouchel is in the market to buy companies in the £2-15m range.

Mouchel, which has no debts, wants to make some niche acquisitions to bolster its managed services business, which accounts for 93% of its workload.

Business development director Stuart Black said that there was no set limit how many businesses Mouchel would buy, noting: "Money is not an object, but the quality of the businesses is."

Black added that Mouchel might buy equity stakes in PFI highways contracts.

He said: "We wouldn't take a 100% equity position, but we have got to make sure we are a player. An equity stake gives us a seat at the top table."

Black made the comments after Mouchel announced results for the six months to 31 January, the first interim figures produced since the company was listed, at a cost of £2.7m, last June.

Profit before tax was £2.4m, a rise of £1.5m on the comparable period last year. Before amortisation of goodwill, pre-tax profit was £2.7m.

Turnover rose 47% from £45.6m to £66.9m.

Mouchel said its order book stood at £385m on 31 January, a 115% increase on the same date in 2002.

Chairman Richard Benton said: "Our focus on high-value, long-term managed services contracts continues to provide opportunities for further business expansion within our target markets as well as sales and earnings growth."

Benton added in his statement that he expected profit to rise significantly in the last six months of the year.

He said: "Given the pronounced seasonality of the business … a much greater proportion of the group's profits arises in the second half of the year."

The company is looking for a chief executive. Two weeks ago, it announced that Jim Harding would stand down to become non-executive deputy chairman from September.

The Mouchel board has appointed a headhunter to help them find a successor.