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Bouygues considers acquisitions to boost expansion

Bouygues UK’s deputy managing director has said the contractor may make acquisitions to boost a planned move into the private commercial sector.

Arnaud Bekaert told CN that the contractor will look to new sectors at the same time as attempting to maintain its presence in education. Bouygues UK is currently bidding for academies and free schools work.

The government cut the £55 billion Building Schools for the Future last year and has only reinstated £2.5bn of funding, as the industry waits for the results of a consultation on school building.

Asked whether Bouygues UK is interested in adding to its UK acquisitions, which included Leadbitter in December 2010 and Warings in 2007, Mr Bekaert said they would need to be in an area which does not clash with its subsidiaries.

“Acquisitions have been key for us in the past five years. You can never say never, but any acquisition would need to be a targeted development on a geographic or sector basis and the worst thing would be to have companies competing in the same field.”

Bouygues worldwide has been very active in the private sector, so UK operations would be likely to move into hotels, offices and other commercial buildings, Mr Bekeart said.

“Education will still be a huge part of what we do in future but if you looked more than five years ago, then education was far from being our main sector in the UK.”

The deputy MD said that in the coming year, the contractor will look to branch out in terms of sectors but also overseas, where it expects to target the Brazilian market following senior UK director Ian Gunter’s move to head an Australian division, revealed by CN in July.

Staff are expected to be given opportunities to move within the group in the coming year, either by moving to the UK from Australia - or in the opposite direction - as well as from group operations in South-east Asia and the Middle East, depending on work volumes.

“We are keen for mobility with staff,” said Mr Bekaert. “We have sent some of our staff worldwide already but as Australia is English-speaking it makes sense that some staff might move there.

“I also wouldn’t be surprised if we see transfers in the other direction.”

The firm is also working on a standardised schools concept to rival fellow contractors - including Wates, Willmott Dixon and Laing O’Rourke - in response to the Sebastian James review recommendations.

Despite its push into new markets, Mr Bekaert insisted the company remained committed to strengthening its presence in the UK.

The contractor has been appointed to several high-profile frameworks recently, including Gatwick airport’s £1.2bn programme for improvement works and Hyde Group’s £480 million housing construction framework.

Bouygues UK is hoping to partner with fellow group members to win future contracts.

“In the year to come we will see a lot more diversification to give us more options and we will be working closely within our group to find global solutions, like bidding with Colas on some projects.”

The contractor is also bidding for the main civils package at Hinkley Point C in partnership with Laing O’Rourke.

Mr Bekaert said the contractor was focused on winning nuclear work and that it would draw on its experience working on nuclear projects at Flamanville and in Finland as part of the bidding process in the UK.


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