US engineering and defence programme management company URS intends to establish “a very serious and permanent business” in the UK through partnerships and, potentially, acquisitions, says chairman and chief executive Martin Koffel.

Speaking to Flight International in London last week, Koffel said the UK’s recently published Defence Industrial Strategy white paper has encouraged the San Francisco, California-based multinational, which has around 2,000 UK employees. “It would make me want to invest more aggressively to build here,” he says, adding: “We are trying to project our US portfolio and environmental and civil infrastructure skills.”

The UK Military Flying Training System requirement represents one opportunity for expansion, with URS holding a 40% stake in the bidding Vector Flying Training Services consortium through its EG&G Technical Services and Lear Siegler subsidiaries. Also comprising Bombardier and KBR, Vector faces competition from the Lockheed Martin/VT Group Ascent and Thales-led Sterling teams for the project, worth around £10 billion ($17.6 billion).

Koffel says URS’s 2002 acquisition from the Carlyle Group of EG&G – which trains 3,000 aircrew a year for the US Air Force and US Army – “caught the market at the right time”, as the USA and other nations are increasingly outsourcing defence and federal government activities. URS expects to record consolidated revenues of $3.7-3.8 billion for 2005 during a fourth-quarter results report to be issued on 16 March. The company, which has around 28,000 employees in 20 countries, says the defence sector experienced continued strong growth last year.

Source: Flight International