Chief executive Sandy Manson said he would not rule out tie-ups with other firms “that see the business world in the same light as we do”, although he insisted his focus remained on organic growth.
His comments came as the Aberdeen-based practice, which has a presence in 11 towns and cities across Scotland, posted a 3 per cent rise in turnover to top the £40 million mark for the first time in its 80-year history. Net profits before members’ remuneration grew 5 per cent to £11.6m in the year to May.
Manson told The Scotsman that Johnston Carmichael had overcome challenging conditions in its North-east heartland to deliver the upturn in earnings, although he admitted it had been a “tough time” amid the North Sea downturn. He added: “Are we seeing light at the end of the tunnel? The recent pick-up in the price of oil is not going to do any harm, but it’s going to be a tough 2017.
“There’s going to be a lot of restructuring but the North Sea is certainly not a busted flush – it’s got a robust future.”
The depressed oil price has triggered a number of deals in the sector, with Aberdeen-based producer Parkmead last month saying it was on the hunt for acquisitions, and Manson said: “There are deals are to be done, and it’s an opportunity for those with capital. We’ve seen cycles before – this has just been a long prolonged one.”
Johnston Carmichael, which traces its roots back to 1936 and now has about 700 staff and partners, has been making inroads into the infrastructure and renewables arenas, having hired a trio of specialists – Mark Conetta, Jamie Davidson and Mark Stewart – from RSM earlier this year.
Manson said: “They’re a tremendous team, who are adding to our service capability, and they fitted so well culturally with Johnson Carmichael. That’s been a major and very positive development.”
The increasing sector diversity comes 13 years after the firm opened an office in Edinburgh, followed two years later by a move into Glasgow.
“While we’re 80 years old as a firm and come from the North-east, that geographical diversity has really helped us weather the storm,” Manson said. “That’s always been our strategy – not to have all our eggs in one basket.”
He added: “You can take nothing for granted, and we don’t look at one year in isolation, as we’re wanting to build a legacy firm to pass on to the next generation. That means we’re making a lot of investment in terms of our service capability, business lines and technology, and we believe these will pay dividends in the years ahead through growth.
“There’s a lot coming at all Scottish businesses – we’ve just had the Scottish budget, we’ve got Brexit, the prospect of Indyref2, the North Sea; the fact is that everyone is just knuckling down and getting on with it.”