Unit Engineering Group takes over its former client

AN ENGINEERING and construction firm has announced a multi-million- pound deal to acquire a former client which is set to create more than 100 jobs in Wales.

Unit Engineers and Constructors, part of the Unit Group, has acquired Birwelco from the Haden Freeman Group after working together on a number of projects.

The acquisition, which was financed by Lloyds Banking Group, is set to create 100 new skilled jobs in Wales as Unit forecasts an annual turnover in excess of £50m for Birwelco by 2013.

Birwelco’s base in the West Midlands will remain, with plans for further job creation there as well.

The deal also propels Unit into the small number of engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractors operating in the oil and gas, refinery, chemical, petrochemical and utilities industries.

Unit Engineers and Constructors has traditionally provided fabrication and installation services within those sectors, while Birwelco has provided design and procurement and the company hopes the new entity is set to increase its presence in the market.

Managing director of Unit Engineers and Constructors, Bill Ledwood, said: “From a start-up company in 2004 to now becoming an EPC contractor, acquiring one of our biggest clients, is a massive step for Unit and puts us on a completely different level.

“We now have a significant opportunity to target new markets as an EPC contractor and offer much greater diversification of engineering products and services to our existing customer base.

“It became clear that there was a synergy between the two businesses after working on a number of projects and we could see that the continued growth of both companies would be best served by adding the strength of the Birwelco brand to the Unit Group portfolio of companies.”

Unit Group predicted “steady growth” over the next three years for the newly-acquired subsidiary and targeted annual turnover across the group to exceed £50m and the creation of 100 skilled jobs in Wales as it takes on the construction work from Birwelco’s orders.

The company is also planning to open offices for Birwelco in the US and the Far East to increase its global presence.

Mr Ledwood added: “We also expect our export activity to significantly increase to make us one of Wales’ leading exporters.”

Former shareholder of Birwelco Nigel Hirst said: “I am pleased that the future of Birwelco is safe in the hands of Unit Group. Bill Ledwood and I share a common belief in the importance of investing in the future of a strong British engineering sector.

“I wish Birwelco and the Unit Group every success in the future.”

Unit Engineers and Constructors has seen sustained growth over the past six years since it was established in 2004 and was last year identified as the fastest-growing company in the Wales Fast Growth 50 awards, published in the Western Mail, having grown its turnover to more than £17m in 2008.

The Birwelco acquisition comes a year after Unit acquired the project, turnaround and bundle-pulling division from engineering company, Motherwell Bridge.

Lloyds Banking Group provided funding for the deal via an acquisition finance funding package.

Steve Jones, relationship director for Lloyds TSB Corporate Markets in South Wales, said: “We’re delighted to be helping such a strong Welsh business as Unit Engineers and Constructors to realise its growth ambitions.

“The company is led by a team of directors who, together, have over 100 years experience in the field and we very much look forward to working with them to build on this excellent foundation.”

Birwelco now joins Unit Engineers and Constructors, with operations in West Wales and North-East England, within the Unit Group of companies which also includes Unit Superheater Engineering.

The group, which has its headquarters in Swansea, employs more than 250 staff in South Wales.

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