Edmonton, Alberta-based global engineer Stantec intends to boost its environmental and public sector niches with a proposed $500-million acquisition of key units of Australian engineer-consultant Cardno Ltd.

Under the Oct. 21-announced transaction that is set to close by mid-December with approvals of regulators and a Dec. 6 vote by Cardno shareholders, Stantec would buy its consulting units in North America and the Asia-Pacific region. The two firms have previously collaborated on projects.

“Cardno’s key strengths in ecosystem restoration, health sciences, infrastructure, water and government services are completely complementary to Stantec’s offerings in these growing sectors of the U.S. and Australia,” said Gord Johnston, CEO of the Canadian firm. Stantec would boost its US employee number to 10.500 from 9,000 and see its Australia footprint grow 80% to 2,500 employees.

The deal would boost Stantec’s environmental services revenue to 20% from 15%, “yet another ESG strategy,” said National Bank of Canada analyst Maxim Sytchev.

Stantec ranks at No. 12 on ENR's Top 150 Global Design Firms, reporting $3.26 billion in 2020 global revenue, about 75% outside of Canada. Cardno ranks at No. 45 on that list, reporting $978 million in total gobal revenue, about $600 million of which is outside Australia.

The purchase is the largest by Stantec since it bought U.S.-based MWH Global in 2016 for $793 million.

Cardno’s South America and international development businesses, with about 1,250 employees, will remain part of Crescent Capital Partners, the consultant's majority owner since 2015. It had previously spun off Cardno's quality assurance/testing business and other units.

Stantec expects to add about 2,750 employees in the deal, but no new role was disclosed for Cardno CEO and Managing Director Susan Reisbord. She had previously announced plans earlier this year to seek “strategic options” for the company. Cardno executives said it had received multiple offers for its units.