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Spie CEO targets more acquisitions

Engineering specialist Spie will target further acquisitions as part of a five-year growth plan, its chief executive has said.

In an interview with Construction News, James Thoden van Velzen, who has been CEO at Spie since 2010, said the firm would look closely at the nuclear sector for expansion, and would consider further moves into the pharmaceuticals construction market as part of its expansion strategy over the next five years.

Spie has acquired eight businesses in the last five years (see box), including Midlands-based facilities management firm Trios Group, which had a turnover of £60m at the time of its acquisition, and building construction and maintenance firm Garside Laycock.

“The next five years will most certainly see more acquisitions,” Mr Thoden van Velzen said.

“We have a healthy pipeline of interesting businesses [we are looking at] within the engineering and technical space.”

He added the firm would be looking to target acquisitions on a geographical basis as well, with northern Scotland and Wales two particular areas of interest.

The company’s previous five-year business plan, stretching from 2010, was designed to expand the sectors in which it worked and to move away from its traditional reliance on main contractors.

Read the full interview: ‘I hate being a subcontractor’

Mr Thoden van Velzen said that “nearly 90 per cent” of Spie’s work was as a tier one contractor, with much of it coming from repeat business or frameworks with private clients, rather than direct from main contractors.

“We tend not to bid anything unless we have a relationship in some way with the client, otherwise it’s just all about the price – therefore I’m not interested,” he said.

Spie currently works with main contractors including Galliford Try, Kier and Morgan Sindall.

However, Mr Thoden van Velzen stressed that Spie would continue to “pick and choose” its work with main contractors as part of its future expansion drive.

Spie’s acquisitions

2012: Garside Laycock – a Preston-based building construction and maintenance firm with offices across the North-west and Yorkshire.

2013: Hochtief Solutions – parent company Spie Group bought Hochtief’s facilities management business in Europe, with the UK operation integrated into Spie’s existing facilities services business. The acquisition added more than 900 staff to the firm.

2013: Alard Electrical – electrical engineering contractor with clients including Manchester United, Aldi and United Biscuits.

2013: Electricity Network Services – a specialist in the construction, refurbishment and service of overhead power lines.

2014: Scotshield Fire and Security – this deal marked Spie’s entry into the fire detection and security sector.

2015: Leven Energy Services – the acquisition of the utilities contractor signalled Spie’s entry into the gas, water and substations sector.

2016: Environmental Engineering – this supported Spie’s growth in the food, beverage and pharmaceuticals sectors, while the associated acquisition of Environmental Engineering subsidiary MSS Clean Technology marked an expansion into clean technology for laboratories.

2016: Trios Group – Birmingham-based facilities management firm strengthened Spie’s hard FM business.

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