Canada’s WSP to buy New Zealand consultant Opus for $190m

Canadian engineer WSP has made an offer to acquire New Zealand’s Opus International Consultants. The bid has won the approval of Opus’ biggest shareholder, UEM Edgenta, the largest highway firm in Malaysia, and as a result WSP now owns 61.2% of the company.

WSP is offering to buy Opus’ remaining shares at NZ$1.78 in cash, a premium on its 99 cent share price. This values the firm at US$190m.

A subcommittee of Opus’ Board will consider the company’s position and appoint an independent adviser to prepare an independent report on the merits of the offer as required by New Zealand’s Takeovers Code.

Alexandre L’Heureux, the president of WSP, said the bid would "greatly leverage WSP’s customer base and strong international brand equity to significantly bolster its positioning and growth outside of New Zealand".

He added: "The transaction, which is in line with our 2015-18 Strategic Plan, will enable us to fulfil our strategic ambitions of enhancing our activities in the Australia and New Zealand region, while strengthening our expertise in the water-related infrastructure sector and asset development and management."

New Zealand business website NBR quotes a takeover document saying that Opus shares had performed significantly worse than the NZX 50 Index in the past two years, and that the firm’s performance has been affected by offshore difficulties.

Opus reported a US$21.6m (NZ$29.9m) loss in the 2016 calendar year. The company had a US$4.5m (NZ$6.2m) net profit after tax in their half year results. 

Opus floated on the stock market in 2009 with shares valued at NZ$1.65, and had its shares valued over NZ$2 in 2014. quoted Mark Lister, head of private wealth research at Craigs Investment Partners: "The takeover will create a lot of happy, long-suffering shareholders".

Opus have 3,000 employees across the world and 12,000 clients across Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States and the United Kingdom.

In New Zealand, the multidisciplinary firm has 40 offices and employs over 1,700 staff. 

Read more about the takeover via Opus, here.

Last month WSP acquired Poch, a 730-strong professional services firm based in Chile, doubling WSP’s capacity in Latin America.

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