WYG restructure begins to pay off

THE CHIEF executive of engineering and design consultancy White Young Green has said the firm was getting “back to basics” and that part of its strategy was looking abroad for growth.

Paul Hamer told TheBusinessDesk.com that the Leeds-based group was targeting total revenues of 50% from its international business by 2012.

The figure currently stands at 18%.

Mr Hamer said despite being a relatively late entrant to the international scene, White Young Green was exploiting opportunities as it was a “fresh face”.

Commenting on the interim management statement for the quarter to March 31 and subsequent period, Mr Hamer said the company’s ongoing restructure, which aims to make it more focused and efficient, was starting to deliver results but admitted more difficult decisions were having to be made to allow the company to flourish.

Mr Hamer said: “By June the major restructuring will have been done and tnext year will be getting back to basics.

“This statement today is to let the City and wider public know that we’re delivering on the strategy we outlined in February.

“We’ve managed to push on in terms of connecting our business and have a record order book.”

However, White Young Green said today that trading conditions across the business continued to be “mixed and more challenging than those experienced in the first half of the financial year”.

Group headcount was reduced by 324 between December 31 2008 and April 30 in addition to a further 235 job cuts announced previously.

The company is also set to close a further five regional offices by the end of the year. It has already closed seven.

“The group continues to focus on working capital management and cash generation and its net debt position remains broadly similar to that at the half year,” it said.

“As previously reported WYG is in discussions with its lenders. These discussions are ongoing and the Board expects to make a further announcement in due course.”

“The board is encouraged by the progress being made in the implementation of its strategy. The board now expects that the full year profit before taxation and amortisation and before exceptional costs to be in the region of £12m.” 

Mr Hamer said the market was still “extremely challenging” and that it was behaving in a “non-conformal way”.

But he said White Young Green was seeing increased activity in certain sectors, including environmental planning transport and housebuilding.

“I don’t think we’re out of the woods yet and I expect 2009-10 to be as challenging,” he added.

White Young Green said of its five business units – engineering, management services, environment planning transport, Ireland and international – there had been a mixed performance.
 
Engineering has experienced a “more challenging market” which has seen a fall in overall orders but continued demand from publicly funded sectors including rail, nuclear and education sectors and in property maintenance. 

Management services continued to deliver solid profits despite trading conditions remaining mixed across the commercial client base. Public sector work increased from 45% to 65%.

Trading in environment planning transport has remained solid but the second half of the financial year is proving to be challenging for its Ireland business unit.

The order book for White Young Green International is at a record level of around €111m.

“The international public sector continues to provide strong opportunities across Eastern Europe, the Western Balkans and Africa in particular, while the European Commission remains the group’s single largest client,” White Young Green said.

“In line with the group’s strategy, White Young Green is building on its successful proven track record in existing countries and is also diversifying its geographies with new White Young Green legal entities being created in Abu Dhabi, South Africa and Kazakhstan.”

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