Engineer looks at deals in emerging markets as part of six-year recovery plan


WYG has begun eyeing acquisitions in emerging markets as it recovers from a refinancing deal that was forced on it after a previous shopping spree.

Paul Hamer, chief executive of theLeeds-based engineering consultant, said any deal would be part of a new growth strategy and added that WYG was still undergoing a “cleansing process” after the mistakes of the past.

After WYG spent £85m on 18 companies in five years, last January it completed adebt-for-equity swap that left its banks owning 60.5% of the company.

Hamer, who took over from Lawrie Haynes last March, said: “We have identified a number of targets to strengthen our global capability. For example, accessing south-east Asia is expensive and time-consuming unless you make acquisitions.

“He emphasised that acquisitions were not likely before 2012, when the second three-year period of the firm’s recovery plan begins. Hamer said the company was “racing towards” its target of earning half of its turnover from outside the UK and Ireland by 2012/13. It would also follow clients into new markets including Brazil, he added.

Hamer said the company was on track with the recovery plan and was hitting targets set by its bank, including reducing net debt to £34m by 30 June 2010.

The chief executive said the next three years would be about “returning value to the shareholders”. It is understood the banks could exit by selling to another private investor or floating its share.

Announcing its results this week (see box), the company said it had split into four new divisions: buildings and critical infrastructure; transport solutions; energy, sustainability and environment; and risk and assurance services. Group turnover fell 16% from £262m to £221m while pre-tax loss narrowed by £107m to £21.8m.

Hamer said of the new divisional structure: “In consulting we will end up with half a dozen global behemoths of 50,000 to 60,000 people. Global clients can buy scale or look for bespoke niche services so we have gone from a ’jack of all trades’ approach to offer a better tailored service in order not to get trampled by the elephants playing in the grass.”