SIX mainly provincial firms have seen off their bigger City rivals in winning the national property work for British Gas.
The work may be worth a total of £2 million or more in yearly billings, and possibly a greater sum in the first couple of years if British Gas makes disposals ahead of the more competitive market after 1996, lawyers believe.
The firms are DJ Freeman (London), Wragge & Co (Birmingham), Dibb Lupton Broomhead (Manchester), Booth & Co (Leeds), Burges Salmon (Bristol) and Eversheds Phillips & Buck (Cardiff).
Three of them - Wragge & Co, Burges Salmon and Booth & Co - are also members of the Norton Rose M5 Group.
DJ Freeman senior partner David Solomon says the firm is "delighted". While not able to discuss fee arrangements, he says: "As a firm, we are not particularly interested in loss leaders, as we believe loss leaders lead to losses."
Dibb Lupton's property head, Philip Perry says: "It's a significant volume of good-quality, profitable work."
The firms form a panel to service British Gas Property (BGP), a new central function handling the corporation's range of property-related work.
The firms have fixed-term reviewable contracts, but BGP would not confirm their length.
Some have done little or no property work for British Gas before because this was deemed by BGP to be less relevant than quality of service.
Angelline Swift, BGP solicitor and legal manager who ran the tendering process and to whom the firms report, says the winning firms gave "first class" presentations.
They satisfied criteria of value for money, resources and track record, client care and culture fit. Geographical location of offices and regional knowledge were also relevant.
On how the winners were picked, Swift says: "In terms of the operational work, we think that we get the same quality of service from these very good, largely provincial firms, and we will get better value for money."
Nine firms were interviewed, out of 24 firms tendering. A significant number were City firms.
A similar scale of work is now being tendered for BGP's development, consisting of construction, planning, environmental, and property development work.
Invitations to 18 firms to tender were sent out last week.
Dibbs and DJ Freeman are also likely to tender for this.