Weir, the Scottish engineering group, could spend up to £100m in the next year as it broadens the scope of its acquisitions strategy.
After 10 years of building up its pumps, valves and engineering services business, it wants to focus on higher value deals.
`We are looking for companies designing and manufacturing project-led specialist engineering products, preferably with an after-sales business,’ said Sir Ron Garrick, Weir’s chief executive, announcing record pre-tax profits for last year of £49m.
With debt of only £1m at the end of last year, the proposed acquisitions spending could take gearing up to 50%.
Weir expects orders to pick up this year after a 6% decline in 1996. Orders for the Ministry of Defence worth £115m have already been secured in the first quarter of this year.
Some £85m worth of orders will fall to Weir businesses to supply weapons handling systems for the new Astute-class of nuclear submarines.
The Strachan and Henshaw subsidiary has won £30m of orders to refit Trident at Devonport Royal Dockyard, in which Weir has a 24.5% stake.