Tuesday 25 July 2017

Irish engineering firm plans UK buyouts and targets €25m in sales

Michael Looby, co-founder of Byrne Looby
Michael Looby, co-founder of Byrne Looby

John Reynolds

Irish consulting engineers Byrne Looby are planning two acquisitions and €10m revenue growth by 2020, with a plan that will see its workforce grow from 160 to 250.

The Dublin-headquartered firm, which has offices in the UK, Bahrain, UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia is also aiming to increase its work at West Qurna, in one of the biggest oilfields in southern Iraq, close to the city of Basra, where its clients are European and US oil giants.

Michael Looby, who co-founded the business, said the revenue growth will be underpinned by new contracts and two acquisitions. The firm is aiming to make one this year and another next year, and looking at businesses that are a good fit with its current activities - in marine, water, transport and infrastructure related engineering as well as oil and gas. Both acquisitions are likely to be smaller UK consulting engineering firms, he said. Byrne Looby, which was founded in 1998, has a turnover of €15m, and this is split almost equally between business in Ireland, the UK, and the Middle East. In Ireland, the firm has worked for the OPW, Irish Water and various major civil engineering and building contractors.

"We target large, complex projects where we can add value, and where there's a need for strong engineering and quality. The Middle East is a truly global market, where we're competing against Chinese and other Asian, Africa, American, Australian, Indian, and other European rivals. Our differentiator is a proactive service, local presence, and strong market knowledge combined with our international capability," he said.

"We tend to target slightly less competitive spaces in the market that are more specialist. Environmental and marine engineering would be two examples."

"Southern Iraq is stable and well-developed. Our clients are very conservative and risk-averse about working there, so it's de-risked for us in terms of security and operations. They work together with local community tribal leaders and their people who are not unlike our councillors or TDs that they call 'superlocals.' Our clients provide training to locals and will build facilities like a school or medical clinic in order to give something back to the local community, and we take part in that as well," he said.

Projects the firm has worked on include Dublin's Port Tunnel and the Aviva Stadium; London's Docklands Light Railway, The Shard and Heathrow's Terminal 2 and Belfast City Airport. It has done design work on the ports of Aqaba, Dammam, Doha and at Dubai's Maritime City, and on new metro developments in Riyadh and Doha. Earlier this week Deloitte named Byrne Looby one of Ireland's best-managed companies.

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