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Vinci wants more regional buys after sealing Stradform purchase

French contractor latest to follow the trend of nationals buying into local knowledge and smaller jobs

Vinci is on the hunt for more regional contractors after adding 10 per cent to its UK revenue with the purchase of Cardiff-based Stradform.

The firm’s UK arm, which includes Norwest Holst and Crispin & Borst, wants to plug a number of regional holes, including southern England and East Anglia.

Vinci Plc finance director Alec Comba said the firm was planning to mirror its French parent’s strategy in its homeland.

He added: “The bedrock of the business over there is a strong, local presence.

“Knowing local markets inside out is a tried and tested model. The long-term strategy is to get regional -coverage throughout England and Wales.”

Stradform was set up in 1977 and has its headquarters in Cardiff. It has further offices in Swansea, Bristol and Birmingham.

Mr Comba said: “It is better to acquire a regional presence rather than build one ourselves. We’ve been interested in the area for some time.

“Local players are stronger in the South-west and Wales and I think in Wales especially people want to do business with an established local presence -rather than a national come in from scratch.”

Vinci had looked at other firms in the area including Cowlin which was bought by Balfour Beatty last August for £50 million.

Mr Comba said Stradform’s £75 million turnover would take Vinci’s UK figure beyond £800 million. It estimates its 2007 revenue will hit £750 million - up from £630 million last time. It will publish its results in early March.

Stradform employs around 160 people. Mr Comba said managing director John Worrall would be staying with the group, which carries out building work in a number of markets such as hotel and retail with contracts typically ranging from £3 million to £15 million.

Last year Vinci bought West Midlands contractor Weaver, which is based in Bromsgrove, and its businesses have recently opened up offices in Reigate, Surrey, and Wakefield in West Yorkshire.

Analysis: Strategy gives a degree of protection

By David Rogers

The trend for buying regional firms, particularly in the South-west, is growing.

Last year Balfour Beatty bought Cowlin and ISG picked up Pearce. Now Vinci is another French contractor getting in on the act - Bouygues recently acquired Portsmouth firm Warings - and making noises about boosting its regional presence.

Regional businesses are attractive simply because they are regional. A lumbering national tends not to know the local market like a well established local firm and in some areas business is booming.

Nationals have the clout to buy an established player without wasting time and effort setting up a rival.
And there may be another reason. With any hint of a downturn, the big ticket jobs tend to get hit first - smaller work tends to plod on. The recent rash of deals may be a case of larger firms insulating themselves against anything unwelcome that may be around the corner.