Tycoon Jim McColl aims to expand after acquiring Parsons Peebles

HISTORIC engineering firm Parsons Peebles Generation will be restored to its former glory with investment of up to £50 million after being bought by Jim McColl.

The Scottish tycoon’s Clyde Blowers Capital is today expected to announce the acquisition of the firm, which traces its origins to 1898 in Edinburgh, from Patersons Quarries.

Now based in Rosyth, Parsons Peebles makes generators and other electrical equipment for heavy industrial users, and has recently concentrated on the oil and gas sector. At its peak it employed 3,000 but its workforce has dwindled to 41.

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McColl told The Scotsman it was a “fantastic opportunity” to acquire a Scottish engineering firm with global growth potential, which will benefit from Clyde Blowers’ network of business connections in global energy markets.

He plans to double the workforce in the short term in order to develop a new range of high-tech machinery. Longer term plans involve building a global network to service the large numbers of installed machines – half of all nuclear power stations in the US use Parsons Peebles equipment.

“This is a company that can be re-built to its former glory,” he said. “It will need quite a lot of investment in terms of development engineers, and to grow its business globally.”

McColl estimates it will take between £15m and £50m to carry out his plan, with investment over the next few years likely to be towards the middle of that range.

The expansion strategy will involve more acquisitions as the firm seeks to build up its servicing capacity. Motor and generator servicing firms in the US are first on the target list.

“We are also looking for potential targets that could bring technology to us,” he added.

McColl – who was not at liberty to disclose how much he paid for Parsons Peebles under the terms of the deal – compared the firm’s possible growth to that of Weir Pumps, the business he bought for £45m in 2007 and sold four years later for £750m.

McColl said: “It will be a stand alone, ‘platform business’ which we are going to build up.”