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CNinsight100: Atkins extends its lead

The top three in 2011’s CNinsight top engineering consultants remain unchanged from last year, with Atkins and Mott MacDonald the only two firms to have recorded more than £1 billion in turnover.

Most of the consultants in the top 10 saw their revenue remain fairly stable, with small percentage growths or declines.

Atkins is one of the exceptions -its turnover increased by 12.7 per cent. The firm is ahead of its rivals in terms of revenue and looks set for further growth as it targets the energy market, which it estimates is worth up to £1bn. Both Jacobs and Halcrow also enjoyed growth, increasing turnover by 9.7 per cent and 8.4 per cent respectively.

The other firm with a notable increase in turnover this year is URS Scott Wilson, which appears on the list for the first time in its new incarnation after American consultant URS purchased it for £161 million last year. The deal has clearly benefited the firm, boosting turnover by more than 39 per cent.

URS Scott Wilson director of strategy and business development Stephen Wells says the acquisition has given Scott Wilson a greater global footprint and reach, with the addition of being able to provide services in “waste, water, maritime and transport”.

He cites emerging markets over the coming years including carbon management and reduction, oil and gas, energy, water, waste and food retailing.

The focus is on global opportunities, he adds. “The company can now say we’ve worked in the Middle East, the Far East and India on the ground.” But there is no desire to give up UK activities. “We are absolutely wedded to the UK.”

The broadening of services to clients is an area of development for the combined business, Mr Wells says, to offer “whole-life” coverage of a project.

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The consultant that was at the centre of this year’s big failed takeover story, Mouchel, has had a tumultuous year.

Given its largely public sector workstream, its revenue has been hit by pressure on government budgets - falling by nearly 15 per cent in its last financial year. It has also weathered fluctuating share prices, which were not helped when it became the object of a bidding war.

At the beginning of this year, contracting heavyweights Costain and Interserve both made bids of £175m for Mouchel before reducing these offers, citing reservations about the books. Despite intense media and stock market scrutiny, Mouchel held firm and refused both offers.

In an interview with Construction News in June, chief executive Richard Cuthbert said he had no regrets.

“People say ‘look at your share price, surely it would have been better to have [accepted an offer]?’ But we think over the medium and long-term that we expect and hope to prove our decision will be justified,” he said.

The proposed Mouchel takeover was not an unprecedented move by contractors. Last year, Balfour Beatty spent £380m acquiring US-based consultancy Parsons Brinckerhoff - not included in CN’s list because it is a subsidiary of the contractor.

As contractors such as Costain and Interserve look to offer clients the efficiencies and whole-life solutions they crave, it is difficult to rule out another deal of this nature, if not of the same size.

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