McGrigors plans Belfast office to compete for PFI

Glasgow firm McGrigor Donald is planning to open an office in Belfast to compete for PFI work in the province.

McGrigor Donald managing partner Kirk Murdoch said his firm was already involved in a number of important PFI projects in the province, including Belfast's port redevelopment and various road and land registry projects.

Although plans to open in the city are yet to be finalised, Murdoch said: “During the course of this year we would have to take that forward.”

He said his firm did not have any existing relationships or agreements with local Belfast firms and said he thought it would remain that way. “I suspect we would go it alone,” he said. “That tends to be our culture.”

Murdoch said McGrigor Donald had “extremely good relationships” with its Belfast clients.

Kennedys is currently the only firm based in mainland Britain with an office in Belfast, although some City firms, notably Travers Smith Braithwaite, are competing for PFI work in the province.

Dublin firms are also known to be looking to advance into the Belfast PFI market. Two years ago A&L Goodbody formed an alliance with Belfast-based Elliott Duffy Garrett while Arthur Cox set up a separate office.

Richard Gray, a partner with Belfast firm Lestrange & Brett, said: “The market is increasingly competitive and we see this move as a positive challenge.”

But one Belfast lawyer said there was antipathy towards firms coming in from outside the province. “Often these firms will send over the high flyers to pitch for the work but it won't be the same people who actually end up doing it.

“These firms are not committed to local issues. When public sector jobs are awarded to City firms it's galling to see that fee income flowing out of Northern Ireland.”

Travers Smith Braithwaite partner Andrew Barrow said it had no plans to open an office in Belfast. “It's as easy to get PFI work from London as from an office over there,” he said.