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Osborne focuses on picking the right partners

Moving with the markets, picking projects wisely and creating the right partnerships is the way forward for family firm Osborne.

The company, understood to be bidding for the £20 million enabling works at London Bridge in preparation for the huge £800m scheme, recorded an 8 per cent drop in turnover but a £3.5 million increase in pre-tax profits in the year to 31 March 2011.

With operations in construction, civil engineering and property services, chief executive David Fison told CN:  “You have got to accept that if a market moves, you have got to move with it; but every market change has opportunities in it.”

Rail is the biggest money spinner for the firm, but that sector is “changing as we speak”.

Mr Fison said:  “We see our operations changing slightly.  We have been quite heavily into maintenance, but we are finding that some of that work is now being opened up to lowest cost providers and in some cases it’s no longer a good place for us to be.

“So we are mainly going to concentrate on the project work, which is clearly there in the big schemes, and we will be bidding these both on our own and with partners.”

Head of rail, Dave Hooper, said the sector remains an extremely competitive market, but that the firm will carry on being selective.

“At times it means we say, no, we are not bidding for that, and that has been one of the key points for the strategy this year.  We will write to clients and discuss why we are not going to bid.”

He said creating innovative ‘value partnerships’ is a key priority. Mr Hooper added:  “I am already talking to the partners of tomorrow - and that also goes for the supply chain as well.”

Among the group’s highlights for the past year is developing a partnership with Barratt Homes to work with Bexley and Worthing Colleges.

Mr Fison added: “I think these sorts of deals have to be something that becomes more prevalent in the market place and we have got to be using our know-how in structuring these to get them through.”

And there are no grand plans for expanding the company.

“It’s one of the nice things about being a family company”, said Mr Fison.  “You are not being driven by growth like other companies.  We would like to grow, not least to give our staff further opportunities and development, but the current aim is to stay n the sectors we are in.”

Asked about low bids by competitors,he said tightly priced jobs is something every company has – but the risk is when firms take the contracts they can not possibly deliver on.

“Once you get those jobs, everybody’s a loser,” he said. “Invariably people feel the market is at the bottom; sub contractors and suppliers don’t have any more money to give. That means it’s all about how we improve procurement.”

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