While speculation overseas in water treatment centers on French contemporaries, Severn Trent Services—U.S.-based subsidiary of Birmingham, England’s Severn Trent PLC—has quietly amassed a sizable position in water treatment disinfection, membrane technology and laboratory services.

Most notable to the point-of-use/point-of-entry (POU/POE) water treatment segment was December’s acquisition of Universal Aqua Technologies (UAT), a Torrance, Calif., maker of bottling equipment and membrane-based water purification systems ranging from residential undersink to large desalination plants.

UAT, which recently moved into a new 55,000-square-foot facility is the producer of bottling systems for Perrier, the world’s No. 1 water bottler. UAT’s president, Marwan Nesicolaci, now manages export sales for Severn Trent Services. Hu Fleming, vice president of water purification services, said the Egyptian’s international experience was only one of the plusses Severn Trent found in UAT, now known as Torrance Operations.

“Not only Marwan but his team are relatively strong in the Middle East,” Fleming said. “And the Middle East for us is still a growth market for water equipment. There’s a lot of activity, not just for desalination units for drinking water but drinking water membrane-based systems, advanced filtration systems and some water recycling. We see Asia as attractive as well.”

Fleming started in water treatment at Alcoa Separations, helped launch Zenon Environmental and was Crane Fluid Systems president, before picked by Severn Trent Services CEO Bill Cook to join the non-regulated business arm of Severn Trent PLC in April 2000. Severn Trent PLC is a nearly $3 billion company in drinking water, wastewater and utility services with 14,000 employees worldwide. Fleming already was consulting with Severn Trent Services, formed in 1998, on strategic acquisitions, when Cook—Hercules/BetzDearborn past president—was hired.and he had great respect for him, Fleming said.

Today, the new company has made some 60 acquisitions and is the most profitable arm of Severn Trent with sales at $600 million plus and growth of 44.3 percent last year. Fleming attributes that to the fact companies it’s targeted for acquisition are No. 1 or 2 in their business segment as well as market niches and regions where it’s chosen to concentrate efforts. He said 80 percent of what Severn Trent Services does is municipal with most of the rest in industrial water treatment. It does offer some POU/POE but doesn’t see the market as one to pursue just yet.

As for challenges, Fleming said he’s very concerned with the environmental turnaround of the Bush Administration in the United States coupled with a slowing world economy and implications on environmental and water treatment spending that’s largely regulatory driven. “Ignoring politics, I think everybody would agree it really is clear the Bush Administration has pulled back on a lot of environmental drivers,” Fleming said. Still, he doesn’t expect that to stop his company from reaching its goal of $1 billion in sales and possibly pursuing an independent path within five years.

For Fleming’s full interview with WC&P, go to https://wcponline.com and press the “Executive Q&A” button.

—Carlos David Mogollón

Severn Trent Services
580 Virginia Drive, Ste. 300
Fort Washington, PA 19034
Tel: (215) 283-3482
Fax: (215) 283-3487
Email: http://hfleming@severntrentservices.com
Web: http://www.severntrentservices.com

Companies acquired: ChromaLab*—January 2001; Universal Aqua Technologies—December 2000 (membranes, packaged systems); Onsite Environmental Laboratories*—October 2000; QED Environmental Systems—September 2000; Hydra-Stop—June 2000 (pipeline services); Hyder Laboratories*—April 2000; Quanterra*—February 2000; ClorTec—January 2000 (municipal disinfection equipment)

* Laboratory services

Employees: 5,000

Management: Bill Cook, chairman/CEO; Hu Fleming, vice president, water purification solutions; Rachel Brydon Jannetta, vice president, analytical services; Len Graziano, vice president, operating services; Marwan Nesicolaci, vice president, international sales

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