Vehicle engineering consultancy Ricardo Group is setting its sights on a major acquisition this year in a bid to strengthen its position as a tier-one supplier to the car industry.
Rodney Westhead, chief executive of Ricardo Group, said in an interview with The Engineer that the conditions necessary for a successful acquisition ‘on friendly terms’ were coming into place.
And the signs are that a bid could take place before the autumn.
‘If the timing is tomorrow, then we will do it tomorrow,’ he said. ‘We would all like another six months on that, but you can’t always choose your own time.’
Likely targets will be similar high-value engineering consultancies specialising in vehicle engine performance, emissions control, electronic control systems or chassis engineering.
Vehicle styling designers have been ruled out.
Some analysts are already linking Ricardo with Cosworth, the vehicle engineer and engine manufacturer owned by Vickers group, which could be earmarked for disposal after the sale of Rolls-Royce Motors.
Both Ricardo and Cosworth turn over close to £100m, though Cosworth’s figures include engine casting and assembly.
The two have operated as rivals and as partners in a wide range of engineering projects. ‘Ricardo would love to acquire Cosworth and Cosworth would love to acquire Ricardo,’ said one Vickers source.
Westhead would not rule out such a move. ‘Cosworth would bring us more bulk, but we need to look at the expertise they offer. Their calibration capability would make a welcome addition,’ he said.
Other players in the frame include Tickford in the UK, and European and US vehicle engineering specialists. Ricardo is understood to be keen to open a new office to serve the German market.
Interview, page 17