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BDP International -- back on top

BDP International chairman Richard Saxon is smiling down the phone. His group, made up of four companies across France, Spain, Germany and BDP in the UK, has had a good year, bouncing back to the top of the AJ 100 chart - and he feels there is more to come. True, he says, there were some problems with Private Finance Initiative schemes in 1999 - especially with the Home Office, on which the firm was working on a refurbishment scheme only for the government to have a change of heart. It ran a competition instead for a new building on Marsham Street and BDP lost out in what Saxon brands a 'fiasco', since parliament was 'swallowing'a scheme which would cost three times as much. But, Saxon says, the firm learned from this and other PFIs - the practice will no longer share risk. 'We are not doing it for nothing anymore or even at an equity risk, ' he says. The company, celebrating its 40th anniversary throughout this year, is also guarding against economic downturns by spreading geographically and across sectors and it does not allow any of its six main sectors to clock up more than a quarter of its total turnover. Retail is buoyant, particularly overseas - the firm is putting the finishing touches to Iceland's first mall in the capital, Reykjavik. Health, too, is 'on an upramp'. In education, while BDP's presence in building at universities is impressive - it is working at more than 20 university sites - Saxon wants to do more schools. He also has his eye on transport and is keeping close tabs on CrossRail, for which BDP designed a series of stations. 'I'm very excited by the political will behind it, ' he says. The firm is also pushing Skylid, a new technology to reduce the cost of stadiums by cutting roof weight.But perhaps the building to make most waves will be the titanium-clad Glasgow Science Centre opposite Foster and Partners' 'disappointing' 'Armadillo'conference centre. 'It's a jewel, and an iconic building for us, ' Saxon says.

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