AECOM announced Oct. 13 that it has agreed to sell its management services unit, which includes work for the U.S. Defense and Energy Depts. and expertise in cybersecurity and information technology, to a private equity firm consortium for $2.4 billion.

The AECOM board unanimously approved the deal, which had been set to close in the first half of its fiscal 2020 but now will likely close in January, reports say.. The firm had announced in June its intent to spin off the unit, with pressure from activist investor Starboard Value,

Management services reported $3.7 billion in 2018 revenue, and operating income of $200 million,

Andrew Wittman, lead construction-sector analyst for investment firm R.W. Baird, said in an Oct. 14 note that the spin-off plan into a stand-alone company “was matched by a parallel sale process, which we believe investors preferred.” He said “interest included both strategic and financial suitors … and the purchase price was better than we expected.”

The new owners are a group led by PE firms American Securities and Lindsay Goldberg. AECOM did not release names of other bidders.

The AECOM unit will be renamed, but John C. Vollmer, management services group president, will continue to lead it “with the existing management team,” the parent firm says.

Jamie Cook, lead industry sector analyst and a managing director of Credit Suisse, says AECOM "is still in the process of exiting the hard-bid/at-risk construction business, although the selling process is taking longer." She notes the firm's prediction of boosting margins in its remaining design business "to at least 8% in fiscal 2020."

According to Bloomberg, Starboard said in a June letter to AECOM management that the firm should sell its construction services unit, which includes the former Tishman Construction and Shimmick Construction, and make "operational improvements" in the design business.