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Costain plans new focus on key areas

FINANCE - Contractor's pro. ts grow 138.1 per cent in 2005 but African jobs make a loss

COSTAIN'S new chief executive Andrew Wyllie is narrowing the contractor's focus onto a shorter list of key areas.

The move comes after a review of the business and signals a shift in strategy from Stuart Doughty, who Mr Wyllie replaced six months ago after leaving Taylor Woodrow's contracting arm.

Mr Wyllie said: 'When I came in we were operating in 15 or so different markets and we're going to narrow that down to eight or nine.

'I can't think of one of our main customers in these markets that is not embracing some form of par tnering.

'What we're not about is doing small bits and pieces in a region just because we have an office there.' The sectors highlighted by Mr Wyllie are health, education, retail, water, roads, oil and gas, marine, nuclear and rail.

Overseas work could suffer, as it provided just £24.7 million of Costain's £773.2 million workload last year and made a £2.9 million loss on historical jobs in Africa.

Under Mr Doughty, Costain had re-established itself in Nigeria and opened a South African office.

Mr Wyllie will not drop Costain's well-regarded overseas operation and hopes to use a joint venture with Chinese contractor China Harbour to pursue more marine work.

He is also looking at exporting Costain's experience in the privatisation of the UK's water utility network overseas.

Mr Wyllie has also introduced an executive investment panel that runs the rule over all £20 million-plus contracts, ditching non-priority jobs.