Canadian firm signals intent to purchase UK engineering consultancy

21 August 2018 3 min. read
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The latest in a succession of Canadian acquisitions of UK firms has seen Stantec agree to acquire Peter Brett Associates. The British consultancy is in line to become a part of the engineering giant once the deal is finalised at the turn of the month.

Alberta-headquartered engineering group Stantec has been increasing its UK footprint via a campaign of aggressive acquisitions in recent months. Earlier this year Stantec completed the full integration of the MWH UK and MWH Treatment businesses in the UK, following its £623 million acquisition of MWH’s global business in March 2016. Kicking on from that, in March 2018, Stantec acquired Shrewsbury-based environmental advisory specialist ESI Consulting for an undisclosed fee. As well as providing a hold in the UK market, the ESI acquisition enriched Stantec’s technical proficiency, with majority of the 50 ESI employees moving to the Stantec team come armed with elite academic qualifications.

Now, Stantec has signed a letter of intent to buy Reading-based Peter Brett, with the deal expected to be finalised in September. The deal, once it is completed, will see £3.38 billion turnover Stantec expand its UK presence, adding Peter Brett’s 700 staff and 17 offices in the UK and central Europe to its ranks. Stantec’s headcount in the UK currently stands at 2,200, and the firm is looking for ways to boost that further, as it attempts to meet the requirements of an increasing number of projects, including the Maida Vale Flood Alleviation works and the Abberton Reservoir scheme in Essex.

Stantec to acquire Peter Brett Associates

Peter Brett is presently involved in several infrastructure, commercial and leisure projects across the UK, including Tideway and Birmingham’s Paradise Circus. The firm is also working on High Speed 2 and Crossrail 2, as the UK bids to boost its flagging transport system in the coming years – contracts which represent lucrative fare for the consultancy’s prospective buyer.

Stantec president and CEO Gord Johnston said its acquisition of Peter Brett was driven by the UK’s pipeline of housing and infrastructure work, explaining, “Regionally, the project landscape is promising with the UK government’s policy to build 300,000 new homes per year, a five-year programme to invest £4.4 billion in new and refurbished schools, a robust university upgrading initiative, and a major national investment programme in UK infrastructure.”

The deal between Peter Brett and Stantec is the latest acquisition in a succession of take-overs of UK firms by Canadian companies. WSP agreed a £75 million deal to buy Mouchel Consulting in in 2016, while in May 2017, Montreal-based firm SNC Lavalin bought Atkins last May in a deal reportedly worth £2.1 billion. Atkins’ portfolio also notably included work on the Crossrail2 project – a £32 billion project which came under threat after the increasing uncertainty of Brexit and Britain’s most recent general election.