THE FOREIGN Office has shortlisted four firms to bid for a £150 million contract to build new embassies around the world.
The contract will also include consulates, residences and offices.Much of the work is to be carried out in Asia and eastern Europe.Visa offices have also been planned in Asia, mainly in China and India, to cope with increasing demand.
Balfour Beatty, Bovis Lend Lease, Laing O'Rourke and Mace are the four teams hoping to become the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's strategic partner for the scheme.
A winner will be chosen before the summer and will pick up a three-year deal with an average spend of £50 million per annum.
One project source said: 'This is a very exciting opportunity and it will be a feather in the cap of whoever wins the contract.
'Some of the projects are extremely interesting.'
The first major work is likely to be a new embassy in Beijing, China, to be finished in time for the 2008 Olympic Games.More embassies have been planned for Colombo in Sri Lanka and Mumbai in India.
The FCO, which has let 130 contracts in the last five years, has an estate portfolio worth £1 billion spread across 150 countries.
Closer to home, the FCO has shortlisted five firms to build an information and technology centre in Buckinghamshire.
Work on the complex in Milton Keynes will start in September. Local firm SDC is up against national rivals Mowlem and Sir Robert McAlpine for the £16 million job.
Bovis Lend Lease and Laing O'Rourke are also on the list.
The shortlisted contractors have until the end of March to submit their tenders and a preferred bidder will be selected by the end of May.
The FCO's 330 technology staff are expected to move into the new building at Hanslope Park in summer 2007.