Bring us your very major projects

3 July 2013

Still riding high after helping to deliver the London 2012 Olympics venues, UK-headquartered Mace hopes to do more large program management schemes around the world as it seeks to double its turnover to £2bn by 2020.

Recent big project wins in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Russia are models for the kind of work the company wants.

But while the Asia Pacific region is a key target area, the company has struggled to get traction in Mainland China, CEO Mark Reynolds said this week.

"Due to language and culture, selling our solution is a challenge there," he told a gathering in London during the launch of a new study.

However, he said opportunities in Macau and Hong Kong, including for big high-rise residential projects, looked promising.

In the company’s 2012 results released last month, Mace also named Sub-Saharan Africa as one of its biggest growth areas, with staff numbers there rising 60% on the previous year.

Mace worked on the London 2012 venues as part of the CLM delivery partner consortium, and the Games’ success capped a milestone year that saw revenue reach an all-time high of £1.1bn for a company that began life as a small, ambitious project consultancy in 1990.

Now it says the 18% rise in turnover from 2011 sets it on a path to realise its ambition of reaching £2bn in revenue in 2020, just seven years away.

Non-UK revenue so far accounts for only around 10% of the total, but 2012 was the best year for both international revenue and profitability since the company started competing overseas 15 years ago, Marcus Burley, chief operating officer for Mace international, reported in the annual results.

Headcount outside the UK grew 16% to around 1,000 people in 2012, with main international hubs now established in New York, Johannesburg, Dubai, and Hong Kong.

International turnover grew a modest 1% to £103m, up from £102m in 2011. But a clear growth trajectory is evident from 2010 when international turnover stood at £88m.

The company said international profit for 2012 was £2.7m.

CEO Mark Reynolds said the company wants to build on its experience managing major programs, and the £875m contract it won in May this year to deliver a big regeneration scheme in St Petersburg, Russia, is a prime example.

Mace CEO Mark Reynolds (Mace)

That project involves the design and construction of 15,600 apartments to house some 22,500 people, with supporting commercial, leisure, educational, health and transport facilities.

It is Mace’s biggest job in Russia to date.

In Qatar, a joint venture between Mace and UK consultant EC Harris was commissioned by the country’s public works authority, Ashghal, to manage a major programme of social infrastructure building projects over the next five years.

Other major Middle East projects have come Mace’s way. In February this year Mace and EC Harris won the contract to project manage the next contender for the world’s tallest building, the Kingdom Tower in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Foreign consultants, particularly design consultants, have made major strides in China, the world’s biggest construction market.

But with its own considerable contracting horsepower, the country has remained largely closed to foreign building firms.

Mace, whose total activity comprises around 80% construction and 20% consultancy, according to CEO Mark Reynolds, has struggled to get a foothold there.

But the company has redoubled its efforts in Hong Kong and Macau to compensate for dwindling opportunities both in China and Vietnam.

The company says this is starting to deliver results, with appointments at the Hong Kong Jockey Club project following its appointment as executive project manager for phase 3 of Hong Kong’s Science Park.

Meanwhile, Mace says that Sub-Saharan Africa is one of its biggest growth areas.

From its base in South Africa Mace has delivered projects in Angola, Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya, Madagascar, Zimbabwe and Zambia, and has established new entities in Ghana and Mozambique.

Staff numbers in the region are still small, at 69 individuals, but that marks a growth of 60% in 2012, and the company says it wants to establish more operational hubs there.

Finally, Mace invested £2m in its North America business in 2012 and now has four operational hubs in Atlanta, Chicago, New York and San Francisco, providing, it says, a solid base for work reaching across 20 states.

Overall, it’s clear that Mace will be a company to watch in the international space.

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