There is a well-worn maxim in business that companies either move forwards or backwards, but rarely stand still.
Middle East operations are continuing to contribute to the growth of the WSP business worldwide. Its most recent quarterly results for the three months to September 30, 2014, show that its Middle East and Asia businesses witnessed the strongest growth, fuelling a 17.6% growth rate in its ‘Rest of the World’ segment – compared with growth of 12.3% in its US business.
For the first nine months of the year, revenues in the Rest of the World business climbed by around 28% to $17.4mn
Director Greg Kane, who joined the business two years ago from rival practice Hyder says: “It’s a rapidly-growing business,” he said. “We’ve just finished our budgets for 2015 and we hope to reach similar levels of growth – independent of any acquisitions.
“We’re seeing a big upturn in the number of prospects coming into our business every week,” he says, adding that it is also managing to convert these into clients.
“At the moment, where we know a client has made a decision, our win ratio is about 40% of prospects that we bid on,” he states.
Currently, the firm employs 716 people in the region, and Kane says that 269 of these have been added in 2014.
“We could add an awful lot more [but] the thing that we are trying to do here is not hire people just for the sake of hiring. We’re trying to hire quality people… making sure that we’re not just racing to win work and deliver it only to find that in six months there are problems we have to unwind.”
He stresses the importance of keeping its existing clients happy by stating that the firm generates 80% of its current workload in the region from 18 key clients.
“A huge volume of our work is repeat business and that, we hope, is clients who have confidence in our ability to deliver.”
The biggest thing to have happened to the WSP business over the 12 months is its $1.24bn acquistion of Parsons Brinckerhoff from contractor Balfour Beatty, where it saw off rival bids from private equity firms and fellow consultancy Atkins.
WSP’s global CEO Pierre Shoiry said when the deal was announced in September that he expected the merger “to create an industry leader, with the ability to deliver more expertise and services to our client base across the world”.
Indeed, there are several markets where Parsons Brinckerhoff was the more dominant player – including the Middle East. A document explaining the rationale behind the merger published in September quoted employee numbers of just over 600 for WSP in four regional offices, while Parsons Brinckerhoff had 779 staff in 13 offices.
Kane says that with recent additions at WSP, he expects the combined business to have 1,500 staff in the region. Worldwide, WSP’s numbers will increase from 17,500 to 31,500.
“It’s a step change for the business,” says Kane. “It cements our place – we would like to think – in that first tier of leading global technical practices.”