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  • You are here:M&A

Timeline: A brief history of consultancy M&A

Canadian giant SNC-Lavalin this week sealed its £2.1bn takeover of Atkins.

More than 80 per cent of Atkins shareholders voted in favour of the takeover, which became the latest in a long line of mergers and takeovers in the UK consultancy sector over the past decade.

Here, CN looks back at every major consultant M&A since the financial crash.

September 2009: Balfour Beatty buys Parsons Brinckerhoff 

In a move to become a one-stop design and construction firm, Balfour Beatty bought American engineer Parsons Brinckerhoff in a deal worth £380m.

Balfour Beatty said the reason for the acquisition was to create a global professional services business, forge a leading position in the US infrastructure market, and enhance its global reach.

The deal initially boosted Balfour’s overall profit to £86m but after recession hit the firm and it closed a number of regional offices, Balfour sold Parsons to WSP (see September 2014).

It was reported during Carillion’s attempted takeover of Balfour Beatty in 2014 that Balfour’s decision to sell Parsons Brinckerhoff was one of the reasons the Carillion deal fell through.

August 2010: URS buys Scott Wilson 

With a URS deal seemingly secured for Scott Wilson, CH2M swooped in with a £189m bid.

Within just a matter of days, however, CH2M got cold feet and pulled out of the race, paving the way for Scott Wilson board members to vote in support of a URS takeover.

By January 2012 the Scott Wilson name had been shed; two years later Aecom bought URS (see July 2014).

August 2010: Aecom buys Davis Langdon 

After months of negotiations between the firms, August saw Aecom buy UK consultant Davis Langdon in a deal worth £204m.

The first of Aecom’s high-profile buys, the American giant had its offer accepted despite speculation linking the London-based firm with consultant Jacobs.

At the time of the takeover, David Langdon had more than 2,750 staff operating in 75 countries.

In 2012, Aecom decided to ditch the David Langdon name after more than 95 years.

September 2011: CH2M buys Halcrow 

After taking a huge chunk of work on the 2012 Olympics as part of the CLM delivery partner consortium alongside Mace and Laing O’Rourke, US firm CH2M Hill – as it was then known – decided to buy Halcrow.

Since the takeover, CH2M has won a number of high-profile programme management and engineering contracts for clients such as HS2, Tideway and Highways England.

The takeover has not been without its controversies though. Last year CH2M was embroiled in a battle with Halcrow pensioners over the pension plans of more than 3,000 former workers.

November 2011: Arcadis buys EC Harris

The engineering firm founded by Edward Charles Harris in 1911 saw all but one of its 183 partners voting in favour of the deal that would see Dutch global engineer Arcadis assume control.

The merger created a 19,000-strong workforce with revenues of more than £1.45bn.

Less than a year later, EC Harris boosted its parent company’s revenue by more than 84 per cent after strong performances in the building and infrastructure sectors.

In September 2015, after 114 years, the EC Harris name was dropped.

August 2012: Genivar merges with WSP 

The summer of 2012 saw Genivar complete its merger with WSP in a deal worth £278m.

The deal was made to capitalise on WSP’s high-rise, bridge and rail expertise, as well as Genivar’s mining, natural resources and energy capability.

One year after the merger, the new company and its 14,000-plus global employees began trading purely as WSP.

July 2013: Kier buys May Gurney

After a bidding war with fellow top-10 contractor Costain, Kier eventually landed services contractor and engineer May Gurney after more than 99 per cent of both firms’ shareholders backed the deal.

It later emerged that May Gurney had made a loss of £51m in the financial year before the takeover.

Within the first year of the acquisition, the combined group bid for more than £500m-worth of new projects in water, rail and highways.

January 2014: Amec buys Foster Wheeler

At the start of 2014 it was revealed that British engineer Amec had agreed terms to take over rival Foster Wheeler.

The news came despite Amec issuing a profit warning to its shareholders at the start of 2014, which it attributed to a strengthening of currencies against sterling.

The deal, estimated to be worth £2bn, was completed in November that year.

July 2014: Aecom buys URS 

One of the biggest mergers to have taken place in the consultant market over the last 20 years, the £2.3bn deal saw Aecom take over fellow American giant URS to create an £11bn global turnover firm.

The deal also propelled Aecom ahead of Atkins as the largest consultant in the UK by headcount, with staff numbering more than 11,000 staff in this country.

July 2014: Arcadis buys Hyder

Following its acquisition of EC Harris a few years earlier, and a matter of weeks after Aecom confirmed its mega deal to buy URS, Arcadis announced it would take over Hyder.

Hyder, the Welsh word for confidence, was at one point Wales’ largest publicly listed company, with more than 9,000 workers.

In a deal worth £256m, the Dutch consultancy made the move to bring the £297m-turnover Hyder under the Arcadis banner.

September 2014: WSP buys Parsons Brinckerhoff

After being bought by contractor Balfour Beatty in 2009, the recession and poor financials saw Balfour attempt to offload the well-known US engineer.

WSP eventually won out after a bidding war with Atkins, paying £820m for the US firm in a bid to become one of the world’s largest “pure play professional services firms”.

Atkins, which had attempted to land the engineering firm five years earlier, said its unsuccessful bid had cost it £4.5m.

April 2015: Kier buys Mouchel

Kier’s £265m acquisition of Mouchel saw the firm take on the infrastructure specialist’s contracting and consultancy arms.

The deal was aimed at expanding Kier’s presence in the highways market and came just months after Highways England confirmed £17bn of roads spending.

June 2015: Sweco buys Grontmij 

Swedish engineering giant Sweco had its £255m offer for Dutch rival Grontmij accepted in June 2015.

The merger resulted in the creation of a new consultancy firm with a turnover of £1.22bn and a headcount of 14,500.

June 2016: Currie & Brown buys Sweett Group 

After Sweett Group posted losses of £19.1m following a costly withdrawal from the Middle East, WSP PB put in an offer for the consultant valuing the company at £24m.

With the Canadian firm looking poised to take over the firm and bolster its cost consultancy capability, Currie Brown came in with an ultimately successful last-minute offer which valued the company at £29m.

Sweett’s director for London and the South-east Alan Manuel was appointed Currie & Brown’s chief operating officer for the UK in September, and the Sweett name was ditched in November last year.

October 2016: WSP PB buys Mouchel 

WSP PB followed up its unsuccessful bid for Sweett Group with a £75m bid to buy Mouchel Consulting from Kier.

The deal was struck with the aim of boosting WSP’s profile in sectors such as water and roads, in addition to rebalancing the company’s portfolio to take on more public work.

The acquisition was completed earlier this week.

March 2017 Wood Group buys Amec Foster Wheeler

Earlier this year the boards of Wood Group and Amec Foster Wheeler agreed a merger worth £2.2bn.

Under the terms of the deal each Amec Foster Wheeler shareholder would receive 0.75 Wood Group shares per existing Amec share.

As part of the deal, Wood Group’s directors would stay leading the firm, with synergies expected to save more than £110m and the combined turnover of both firms totalling £5bn.

May 2017: CTI Engineering offer for Waterman

May saw one of the first Asian forays into the UK consultancy market, with Japanese consulting engineer CTI Engineering putting in an offer to buy UK consultant Waterman group.

CTI’s first acquisition outside of Japan, the London-based engineer – founded in 1954 and listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1988 – has accepted the offer, which values the company at £43m.

CTI is one of Japan’s largest engineering consultancies, with a turnover of about £300m, while the firm employs more than 2,000 staff.

June 2017: SNC-Lavalin buys Atkins 

In one of the biggest M&A moves in the last 10 years, April saw Canadian firm SNC-Lavalin put in an offer for British engineer Atkins.

The firm, which is largely known as a contractor in its native Canada, offered £20.80 a share for Atkins in a deal worth £2.1bn.

Following the shock move, a number of analysts speculated that a rival suitor could emerge with a late bid for the company.

The deal was signed and sealed at the end of June.  

  • Jigsaw pieces hands mergers acquisitions

    Timeline: A brief history of consultancy M&A

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