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City Site - Industry looks overseas for momentum


WITH UK economic growth forecasts being pared back, more firms across the industry are looking at overseas acquisitions and expansion as a way of maintaining momentum.

In the past week, Wolseley and Hyder Consulting unveiled overseas acquisitions that will boost their exposure to growing international markets and follow similar moves by rivals in recent weeks.

Wolseley plans to spend £1.35 billion, including debt, to buy the Nordic region's leading building materials distributor DT Group, which has operations across Scandinavia and 80 per cent of its £1.6 billion sales through builders merchants.

Wolseley's long-standing appetite for overseas acquisitions means it depends on the UK and Ireland for less than a quarter of its prof its. But this deal is large even by its standards and with DT Group facing relatively healthy markets and a market share of under 10 per cent, it will further reduce its reliance on domest ic sales.

Other materials groups are also expanding overseas. In recent weeks Hanson has spent £160 million on the acquisition of the major US aggregate producer Material Service and Ennstone has expanded its Polish business with a ready mix concrete acquisition.

Hyder Consulting's purchase of planning and landscape architecture consultancy ACLA for up to £5.35 million will extend its access to the growing Chinese market for advisory services.

The firm operates mainly in China and Hong Kong, with offices in Singapore, Dubai and India. Hyder's chief executive Tim Wade said the deal will boost its growth in China. Meanwhile Hyder is still on the look-out for infill specialist consultancies.

Hyder's acquisition follows results from fellow-consultants Atkins showing turnover at its Middle East and China business rose by over a half to £67 million last year.

It is hardly surprising rivals are reinforcing their exposure to the world's most buoyant construction markets.