...health education and more traditional engineering, particularly in water," he says.

Another trend is that projects seem to be growing in size, says Tony Allum, chairman of Halcrow Group Ltd., London. "It’s megaprojects that keep us going," he adds. Halcrow, for example, will bid this year for studies into the estimated $3-billion project to build a pipeline from the Red Sea to replenish the shrinking Dead Sea.

Stalking the Dragon

Of world regions, China still holds the limelight. With several Olympic-linked projects, Arup has had "quite astonishing" success in China, says Hill. He expects business to "flatten off" when Olympic projects end. Campen forecasts tripling DHV’s business in China over five years. The firm has about 200 staff, including 30 expatriates, in China.

MMG recently won its first Chinese rail job, doing a design review on the Beijing metro. The firm is generating over $10 million in annual fees in China and "I hope we will get double digit growth in the next few years," says Stovell.

Business for W.S. Atkins plc cooled when China put a brake on construction, but it has recovered, says Chief Operating Officer Norman Schunter. Now with some 350 staff in China and 300 in Hong Kong, Atkins has new offices in Wuhan and Shenyang. But there are signs of change in operating practices on the horizon. "Is there going to be a relaxation in design licenses, and are design institutes going to be privatized?" Schunter wonders.

In Indonesia, Campen reports reduced international agency funding. As work shifts from public to private sectors, "we are waiting for the economy to pick up," he says. As it is, Indonesia’s government will have difficulty funding ambitious infrastructure plans, adds Stovell.

But Stovell is happy with developments in Thailand. Because of tight competition, MMG is "in survival mode" in Singapore, "and looking forward to better times." Vietnam is a small but growing market for DHV, now mainly in agency-funded studies.

India’s attraction as an offshoring base continues to grow. "My interest in India is much more to do with the external market opportunities....This is not to say there isn’t an Indian market," says Schunter of Atkins.

DHV’s staff of 60 in Delhi is set to triple on the back of work in other countries, including The Netherlands, says Campen. The Dutch payroll will undergo "very limited shrinkage," but with more work to be generated from reduced Indian costs, "the balance will be positive," he says.

Not all activity in India is focused on offshoring. MMG acquired a local company, creating Dalal Mott MacDonald, Mumbai, "primarily to penetrate the local market," says Stovell. "We are using DMM as a resource base for water and building design services....Both have taken off quite well," he adds.

Lahmeyer sees big business in India itself, according to Rolf Wigand, executive director for hydro and water resources. India has plans to develop 50,000 MW of hydro over the next 25 years, while Pakistan has substantial ambitions for thermal power. With some 50 people in Delhi, Lahmeyer is working on the 900-MW Baglihar and the 520-MW Omkareshwar hydro plants.

Oil and Water

With high oil prices, the Middle East is booming again. Atkins has seen its local payroll grow some 50% in a year to around 900, mainly in the Emirates, says Schunter. The boom in Dubai "is quite unbelievable," he says.

Halcrow has a similar number of people in the region, with projects in rail, roads and water. "It’s very much a growth area," says Allum. His focus is Dubai, though Doha is improving, he adds.

Saudi Arabia "is still a high-risk country," says Atkins’ Schunter, who is "keeping a watchful eye" on developments there. With a Saudi track record in power and desalination, MMG has work there and continues bidding. But the Emirates are "pretty positive and an easy environment to work in," says Stovell.

The region has abundant power generation, transmission and desalination projects, with 10 to 12% growth expected in Saudi Arabia, according to Lahmeyer’s Wigand. "Iran is for us a very important market for hydro. We’re involved in a couple of projects," he adds.

With high oil prices, "there are good prospects for hydro also in Africa," says Lahmeyer’s Nothdurft. And the World Bank’s renewed interest in infrastructure will help. "I do see more [public] money going into Africa," says Stovell. But he hopes for more private investment.

Working through a South African affiliate, DHV has spotted an upturn in private sector investment in the continent, especially in energy and mining. Campen believes new plans to cancel some debt will relieve public budgets.

For Arup, "Western Europe, with the exception of Milan and Madrid, is always quite difficult," says Hill. Its longstanding German business has "never taken off," but "I think it will," he says. Schunter speaks for many in describing the U.K. market as "excellent."

In Eastern Europe, "the last few years have been very good for us," says MMG’s Stovell. "We have a strong presence in Poland, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and some new projects in Slovakia." For Atkins, the region has been steady, but "It’s been a difficult year for us in Poland," says Schunter. Atkins has about 150 people in Eastern Europe.