THE fast-growing PressureFab manufacturing business created by German entrepreneur Hermann Twickler has made a key acquisition which will drive it into the sub-sea market.
Dundee-based Twickler Industries has acquired Houston's, a steel manufacturer which has its premises in Cupar, Fife, for an undisclosed sum.
Andy Curran, the owner of Houston's, is retiring and exiting the business.
Mr Twickler said the deal, which was self-funded, would retain the 25 jobs at Cupar and possibly lead to additional posts being created.
However, he acknowledged future plans might involve the integration of design and administrative staff at Dundee.
"The jobs are definitely secure, and we are looking to hire more," he said.
The deal follows the acquisition last year of Arbroath-based R.T. Metal Services, which had 12 employees.
The core PressureFab business in Dundee has grown its staff from 45 to 125 in the past two years, including 100 skilled engineers.
Mr Twickler said: "We welcome the addition of Houston's of Cupar to our growing group of companies, as it brings with it sub-sea engineering expertise, and will also strengthen our steel fabrication capabilities by adding specialist plate-rolling and forming abilities to our existing skill base.
"In addition, Houston's of Cupar's machine shop facility will broaden our services even further for our current and future customers."
Mr Twickler signalled he is eyeing up other deals and said: "We will be looking at another acquisition this year. Within the company, there is funding available."
PressureFab is the only company in Scotland producing offshore containers and topside modules under one roof, combining design, fabrication, testing and coating.
Working with its Angus Alliance Painters division and with R.T., the group also manufactures specialist pipe and vessels and delivers on-site industrial coatings.
Mr Twickler said: "We have done some sub-sea work but we have never really focused on it, we always struggled a bit because we didn't have a track record."
He said the group now had a strong order book for sub-sea work from Houston's blue-chip customers, led by the likes of GE and Aker, and could offer them the large-scale fabrication capability from PressureFab.
He went on: "We have aspirations for further expansion in Dundee, mainly in oil and gas-related subsea work.
"There are a lot of things that Houston's couldn't do due to size and financial background, and customers like GE have serious interest in placing orders for subsea installations that Houston's would not have been able to do and we can."
He also said PressureFab was currently on a shortlist of two for a £6 million project from a major oil company.
The group had met its target of a £10m turnover for 2013, according to the founder, who was the Entrepreneurial Exchange's emerging entrepreneur of the year on 2012 and picked up several regional awards for the business last year.
Mr Curran, 65, said: "I am certain that the company and staff will be in good hands with Hermann, and am also very excited at the prospect of him bringing the same type of rapid growth to Houston's of Cupar that he has brought to Twickler Industries and its subsidiaries."
Mr Twickler is a critic of the outsourcing of manufacturing away from Scotland, and also of large company credit terms which he says can throttle small suppliers.
He commented that Tata Steel had started a campaign to get all their customer accounts settled in 30 days, "but the big names on the customer side are still pushing for 90 days, so the gap is getting wider".