Atkins and WSP enter bidding war for Parsons Brinckerhoff

Multidisciplinary consultant Atkins is locked into an auction with Canadian rival WSP over ownership of Parsons Brinckerhoff, the professional services arm of Balfour Beatty. 

In addition to the construction firms, a couple of private equity organisations are understood to be in the running for Parsons. 

Parsons has already been blamed for the breakdown in the merger talks between Carillion and Balfour Beatty. When the news first broke that the two were in discussions, it was stated that the disposal would go ahead.

Subsequently the Carillion board announced that it had come to the conclusion that "for the combination to satisfy Carillion’s requirements it would be essential to retain the stability and dependability of Parsons Brinckerhoff’s earnings".

Stephen Rawlinson, an analyst at Whitman Howard, commented: "Of the Balfour’s £150m profit before tax this year, around £60m will come from operating profit at Parsons and £80m will come from PFI disposal gains. Parsons’ sale makes a big hole in the operating profit."

According to report in the Sunday press, Goldman Sachs is leading the bidding process, which is at the second-round stage. The asking price is understood to be around the $1bn mark. 

If Atkins were to take over the business, it would become one of the 10 largest engineering design firms in the world, with a focus on infrastructure in general, and transport particular. It would also have particular satisfaction for Atkins’ staff who took part in its struggle to buy Parsons Brinckerhoff in 2009, when it lost out to Balfour.        

Atkins is in an auction with Canadian rival WSP over Parsons Brinckerhoff, the professional services firm that Balfour Beatty bought in 2009.

The bidding process, being marshalled by Goldman Sachs, is at a second-round stage, with sources suggesting one of the two trade buyers is more likely to win out rather than one of the financial suitors.

It is understood that WS Atkins considered bidding for Parsons back in 2009, and is intent on ensuring it does not miss out this time around.

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