The AECOM Technology Corp. acquisition juggernaut, running now for at least five years, is showing few signs of slowing down, despite the recession. The Los Angeles-based engineer said on Aug. 5 that it would spend a total of nearly $680 million to buy two more companies, less than a month after its $245-million purchase of Tishman Construction Co. propelled the firm deeper into the construction management business.

AECOM announced an agreement to acquire Davis Langdon, a U.K.-based cost and project management consultant, for $324 million. The much-rumored purchase is set to add 2,800 global employees and $430 million in 2009 revenue when it closes in October, the company said. The deal does not include the U.K. firm’s Asian counterpart, Davis Langdon & Seah, but AECOM said it will work with the unit “under an existing collaboration agreement.”

That deal followed by one day AECOM’s announced plan to acquire McNeil Technologies Inc., a Springfield, Va., government contractor specializing in IT and cyber security work, for $355 million. When completed, that deal will add 1,500 employees and current revenue of $245 million, AECOM said. Company CEO John Dionisio told analysts on Aug. 5 that the firm was acquired in an auction, but its private-equity owner Veritas Capital declined to disclose the number of other bidders or their identities.

“We believe this is an opportunistic time to make investments in markets whose near- and long-term prospects remain robust,” said Dionisio. “We’re not waiting for market conditions to improve. We’re looking for new opportunities and have aligned our global resources accordingly.”

Dionisio said that the three acquisitions plus one other earlier this year add a total of $1.8 billion and 5,800 employees to the AECOM stable. He said the deals would bring to 30 the firm’s acquisition total in the last five years. But, he noted, integration has been “going well” so far, and other purchases, such as in Latin America or in the energy market, could come soon.

“We take time to understand the fabric of the companies we buy.”
— John Dionisio, CEO, AECOM

Dionisio noted the successful integration of large engineer Earth Tech several years ago and said the Tishman deal was a year in the making. “But we started discussions with Dan [Tishman, company CEO] 10 years ago,” he said. “We take time to understand the fabric of companies we look to buy.”

Dionisio noted AECOM’s backlog decline in announcing third-quarter results and the falloff of private-sector revenue, but he predicted increased activity next year in transportation public-private partnerships and in the oil-and-gas sector. “The pipeline of projects is more robust than in the beginning of the year,” he said. Noting $7 billion in proposals “in the pipeline,” Chief Financial Officer Michael Burke said, “The trajectory of organic growth is positive.”

Analysts were also generally positive. Goldman Sachs said on Aug. 9 it would cover AECOM, noting “its strong business model” but also warning of market pressures. “There will be near-term headwinds, but returns over the long term should reward investors,” added Avram Fisher, BMO Capital Markets analyst.