2 August 1999
The management at UK building company RMC Group must be glad that 1998 is
Last year began with a profit warning due to difficult trading conditions
in Germany, where one of the group's largest operations is based.
RMC began to whittle down its operations to focus on its core function as a heavy building materials supplier to international clients.
Following a raft of sell-offs, including two cement plants in Germany andthe £121m sale of Hall & Co, its UK builders merchant division, to Wolseley, RMC is now facing a more positive 12 months. Its performance for the first half of 1999 is expected to be ahead of last year's figures and RMC has already embarked on a number of acquisitions backed by a £2bn war chest.
Michael Collins, head of the UK legal department, says: "It has been extremely busy this year.
"We had gone through the process last year of selling off those businesses that were not core and this year we are looking at acquisition opportunities.
"There is a lot of activity."
The UK is one of the largest legal practices in RMC's 25 worldwide operations , along with Germany and the US, which are where many of the major acquisitions and sales have taken place over the past two years.
Two of the group's largest purchases this year have been in the US. RMC bought Jobe Concrete Products and Reno Sparks Ready Mix for £72.1m.
But Collins says these sales have been handled by RMC's US operation, since each of the groups regional offices work independently of each other.
He says: "My role is in relation to the UK and the UK-operating companies.
"We have a number of divisions here and we are responsible for providing a legal service to meet their needs."
The UK in-house department was involved last year in the sell-off of Hall & Co.
"We handled that very much in conjunction with Linklaters and used three of our own lawyers," says Collins.
He adds: "It was quite a major undertaking because Hall & Co was very much part of our group for a long time.
"It wasn't straightforward in the sense that there was quite a lot of corporate reorganisation to get all the assets in place in order to sell the business off."
While the UK in-house team has been involved in the group's refocusing exercise, it is the property area that provides the most work internally.
"We try to deal with most of the property work in-house but when there are overspills we would use Clarkes, Eversheds or McGuinness Finch," explains Collins.
"We have got a very large property portfolio, either through freehold land and leases."
But since much of RMC's products are gained from quarrying, the group's in-house team has to be conscious of environmental issues.
"We have specialist surveyors, geologists and planners, so effectively we have all the skill in-house," says Collins.
He adds that when environmental or planning issues arise, the in-house team is more inclined to turn to the Bar than solicitors. The in-house team has a long relationship with Gerard Ryan QC at 2 Harcourt Buildings on planning issues.
"Particularly with planning appeals we would use a specialist advocate to present the case as we have always felt that the best advocates are those at the Bar," he says.
Head of legal
|Sector||Construction and building materials|
|FTSE 250 ranking||7|
|Legal function||Seven lawyers|
|Head of legal||Michael Collins|
|Reporting to||Michael Hampson, group company secretary|
|Main location for lawyers||Feltham|
|Main law firms||Linklaters & Alliance (corporate), Hill Taylor Dickinson(shipping), Eversheds (property), Clarkes (property), McGuinness Finch (property)|