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CNinsight100: Diverse trend for quantity surveyor consultant firms

A global outlook will be vital to the success of consultancies in 2012, according to one of the firms at the top of the CNinsight 100 quantity surveyor consultant list.

Davis Langdon was one of the only companies to see turnover growth in its latest results, of more than one third - albeit on results spanning 18 months rather than one year.

The industry is dominated by the top three consultants, which jointly account for 58 per cent of the turnover recorded across our top 10.

Davis Langdon joined Aecom Technology Corporation in October last year in a £200 million deal and is now better positioned to “go for the really big stuff”, according to its global chief executive Jeremy Horner.

“If you read a CEO’s comments, you can see the emphasis on how much work is won from outside the UK,” he says.

“This is where the growth is and you have to push for those opportunities, as it’s a devil of a job holding on to the best people and developing their careers if the growth isn’t there.

“Companies depending solely on the UK will find it a struggle.”

Asia, where Aecom has a big presence, along with South America and Africa, are forecast as major growth continents for the merged business. But the UK, especially London, is still considered to be a stronghold, particularly in energy, transport and water.

“[London] made us great and is what we’re good at and we’re not going to take our eye off the ball,” Mr Horner says.

Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors chairman Alan Muse says international business brings competition and innovation.

He says: “This should be viewed in a positive vein by the UK industry and the challenge should be accepted to increase efficiency and benchmark international best practice.”

Top 10 QS Consultants

Click table for further analysis

Consolidation across the industry can be seen in this year’s CNinsight top 10 QS consultants (see table). Mergers in 2010 resulted in notable absences compared with last year’s index.

Drivers Jonas merged with Deloitte last year and results are not available for the individual Drivers Jonas business. King Sturge merged with Jones Lang Salle this May and is also absent due to consolidated figures.

Mr Horner tells Construction News he “definitely” envisages more consultants consolidating. Mr Muse agrees that the drive to reduce costs in a mature UK construction market will continue to drive mergers and acquisitions.

Philip Youell, chief executive of EC Harris, ranked number two, says despite economic uncertainty his company is in discussions with a number of acquisition targets, with plans to secure at least one by Christmas.

EC Harris will focus on the regulated sectors and growth in the Middle East and Asia.

Diversification will be another trend, says Mr Horner - for example, structural engineering firms offering cost consultant and project management services, and cost managers branching out to create the “one-stop shop” concept.

“Everyone is trying to add more innovative services to their offering,” he says.

Exiting the table is WT Partnerships, which this year saw a drop in turnover of 14 per cent to £14.7m.

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