American consultancy Hill International plans to expand in the UK by buying a QS or project management firm

The £55m-turnover firm, which also operates in eastern Europe and the Middle East, wants to expand in the UK and further in Europe.

Chairman and chief executive Irvin Richter, who founded the firm in 1976, said: “We are in the process of identifying companies that will best fit. I expect a deal to be done in the next year.

“We want to combine the relationships, people and local presence of a firm with our international presence. It will be a case of one plus one making three.”

Richter said the firm would have to make an acquisition to gain a QS-presence in the UK. He said: “It’s essential to the management process in the UK.” The firm established a claims consultancy in London six years ago and began its foray into project management at the start of this year.

Hill hired Eric Butterworth, former MBM Capita regional director, to head the UK project management arm and David Kyte, formerly at Turner & Townsend, as head of UK claims. The firm has won four project management commissions.

Richter said the firm specialised in turning troubled projects around. He said: “Our experience in claims leads us to this. We are often brought in as a second team.”

Richter said he expected the size of the firm, which has 20 offices, to grow tenfold to more than £500m in “no more than 10 years”. The firm, which has a workforce of 600, has plans to take the company public, most likely in the US, having grown the business by 20% each year.

We want to combine the people and local presence of a firm with our international presence

Irvin Richter, Hill International chief executive

David Richter, president and chief operating office at the firm, said it wanted quantity surveying and claims consultancy under one roof. He said: “It’s something few other firms can offer.”

The firm said it also planned to establish a presence in China in the next two years. It has set up a joint venture project management firm in Korea called Yeil Hill. Irvin Richter said that prospects in the Middle East remained good, especially in regions such as Abu Dhabi.

The firm was this month appointed for the tallest skyscraper in Qatar, the 80-storey Dubai tower, which is due for completion in 2007. The firm is also project manager on headquarters for Middle Eastern bank CIB in Cairo.

In addition the firm is playing a key role in the rebuilding of Iraq. It has been part of a joint venture firm acting as construction managers for the US Corp of Engineers, which has a total workload of $18bn (£9.8bn).

Irvin Richter said resourcing its Iraq operations had not been too difficult. He said: “We are not having any problems staffing it with the exception of programmers and planners.”

n Consultant Dunlop Haywards, part of the Erinaceous Group, has bought Manchester-based surveying firm EP2. Jeremy Hobson, EP2 chief executive, and his partner Neil Cuckson will stay within the merged company. Dunlop Haywards employs more than 650 staff and operates in three core markets: building consultancy, commercial property consultancy and public sector housing services.