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McAlpine eyes up roads and water

INCOMING Alfred McAlpine chief executive Ian Grice wants to buy two companies in the highways and water sectors by the end of the year.

The firm is currently in preliminary talks with four companies over possible bolt-on acquisitions, but none of the talks are at an advanced stage.

Mr Grice said: 'I would be disappointed if we have not bought one or two by the end of the year.'

During the past two years the company has run the rule over 100 companies and has done detailed work on 23 of those, only seven of which it has bought.

Mr Grice said: 'We have a very stringent criteria for acquisitions.'

The firm has a £75.6 million cash-pot to fund future acquisitions and spent £14.4 million in June when it bought specialist technical firm Aims Group.

At the beginning of the year the company was restructured into three divisions, capital projects, infrastructure services and business services.

Mr Grice said the firm was not interested in increasing the number of Private Finance Initiative jobs it tenders for in the health and highways sectors and would continue to be choosy.

He said: 'We are always selective in what we bid for. PFI is very expensive and takes a long time to reach financial close.'

McAlpine spent almost £2 million bidding for a £200 million deal to develop the 1,200bed Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth, which it narrowly lost to Carillion.

It currently has a PFI win rate of one in three and would like to improve it to one in two.