US engineering giant Jacobs is reported to be in "advanced talks" to acquire its smaller rival CH2M. If the rumour is true such a deal would give Jacobs access to the UK’s biggest infrastructure projects.
A report last week in UK newspaper The Times claimed that Jacobs wants to expand its UK presence, and that the "asking price" of CH2M could be depressed to "about $1.5 billion" due to CH2M’s pension liabilities in the UK and its loss of the contract to oversee phase two of the UK’s High Speed Two rail project (HS2).
Neither company would comment on the rumour, which comes after Canadian giant SNC-Lavalin struck a deal in April to acquire UK consultant Atkins for around £2.1bn ($2.7bn).
"Jacobs is keen to grow in the UK, but with Atkins being bought up, the opportunities have become limited," an industry source told The Times.
Dallas-headquartered Jacobs is the bigger company, reporting $10.9bn in revenue in 2016, with 54,000 staff worldwide.
Denver, Colorado-based CH2M reports turnover of $5.2bn but, unlike Jacobs, it is deeply embedded in the UK, with roles on major infrastructure projects such as phase one of HS2 and London’s Thames Tideway Tunnel (known colloquially as the "Super Sewer"). Utility Thames Water appointed CH2M as programme manager for the £4.2bn project – which updates London’s Victorian sewerage system with a 25-km tunnel – in 2008.
Most recently CH2M, with UK architect BDP, was awarded a contract to manage the £4bn restoration of the Houses of Parliament.
Image: Cabins for the project to build London’s Thames Tideway Tunnel go under Tower Bridge as construction on the £4.2bn, 25-km tunnel begins in 2017 (Tideway)