Consultant grows revenue and staff numbers off back of UK market recovery

A “powerful recovery” in the UK helped Sweett post an increase in overall revenue of 9% to £89.4m in the year to 31 March 2014.

The consultant posted unchanged operating profit of £2.3m for the year, but a £970,000 non-cash gain from exiting a foreign exchange contract hedging Australian dollars, boosting its pre-tax profit, which includes finance costs and gains, by 56% to £2.8m, up from £1.8m the previous year.

The firm’s order book grew by £9m to £109m, while staff numbers grew 10% to 1,535.

Sweett’s European division, of which the UK makes up the lion’s share, grew 12% to post £49.3m revenue, up from £33.2m the previous year.

Sweett said recovery in the UK regions outside London and the South-east had boosted the business, as well as expanding its presence in the UK energy and infrastructure sectors, with these divisions growing 145% on the previous year.

Sweett argued its continuing independence in the context of consolidation elsewhere in the UK consultancy market had also boosted the firm: “As one of the few remaining players who can offer a truly independent service with global capability, we are in a solid position to benefit from the improvements which we see [in the UK market].”

The firm’s Asia Pacific division grew 10% to £28.6m, up from £26m, while its Middle East, Africa and India division contracted 3% to £11.8m, down from £12.2m.

Sweett said discussions were “ongoing” with the UK’s Serious Fraud Office and the US’s Department of Justice over bribery allegations made in the Wall Street Journal in June 2013 relating to the Sweett’s historic operations in the Middle East.

Sweett said “no proceedings have been issued by either of them” and a second independent investigation commissioned by the firm to investigate the claims, by lawyers Mayer Brown, is ongoing.

The firm increased its planned total dividend payment for the year to 1.3p per share, up from 1p the previous year.

Dean Webster, chief executive officer of Sweett Group, said: “”The Group has performed strongly driven by a powerful recovery in the UK market, where we have gained market share.  

“Our order book is at record levels and we are trading well with prospects for turnover and margin improvement being on track.  

“As a provider of independent services with a solid global platform we relish the opportunities ahead of us as we see global economies strengthen.”