An April 3 bid by Canada-based global design giant SNC-Lavalin to buy U.K. engineer Atkins, valued at $2.6 billion, has been confirmed by both firms’ boards and further indicates a resurgence in industry sector consolidation, observers say. The Montreal firm, which has until May 1 to finalize its offer, would benefit from Atkins’ broader exposure to U.S. and U.K. infrastructure markets and being able to move away from oil-and-gas work, while the British firm would gain size to bid larger projects.
Atkins ranks at No. 11 on ENR’s latest list of the Top 150 Global Design Firms, with $2.7 billion in 2015 design revenue, 40% in transportation and 24% in power. SNC-Lavalin ranks at No. 12 on that list, reporting $2.69 billion in global revenue, mostly outside Canada, with construction revenue not included. Atkins, which was in merger talks earlier this year with U.S.-based CH2M, faced turnover in its North America leadership. SNC-Lavalin is pushing past its 2011 ethics scandal. One design-sector analyst says a link with Atkins “would allow them to do it,” but he still envisions “cultural” integration challenges. Others point to potential for “gatecrashers,” or other Atkins bidders.
Toronto analyst Maxim Sytchev of National Bank Financial says an SNC Lavalin-Atkins link “is highly strategic” in reducing the combined risk profile. An industry source had said Atkins wanted to merge with consultant Parsons Brinckerhoff in 2014, before WSP Global bought it for $1.35 billion. The latest deal would follow the pending $2.7-billion purchase of the U.K.’s Amec Foster Wheeler by Wood Group, also based there. “After a relatively quiet 2016, we’re seeing consolidation ramp up, given a potentially favorable environment for U.S. infrastructure,” says consultant Steve Gido.