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Consultant merger creates global player

MAUNSELL IS to merge next month with giant US engineering consortium AeCOM.

The combined operation will employ 11,000 staff worldwide, on a turnover of ú1.5bn, creating a major new player on the global consultancy stage.

Maunsell's 3,500 staff worldwide will join 7,500 from leading US consultants, all operating under the AeCOM umbrella.

Maunsell chief executive David Odgers said: 'This merger take us into a different league. Our new competitors will be the likes of Bechtel, Fluor Daniel and Parsons Brinckerhoff.

'We provide technical depth, particularly in underground technology, tunnelling and long bridges which is crucial if we want to take on the ú30bn of Transport Equity Act infrastructure work in the US.

The deal will see AeCOM acquire Maunsell's stock in exchange for AeCOM shares and an undisclosed cash sum. It is structured as an acquisition so as to have only one class of share.

Maunsell will become the global brand outside the US for all AeCOM work. Maunsell chairman John Downer and Francis Bong from Maunsell's Hong Kong office join the seven- strong AeCOM board which is led by chairman and chief executive Dick Newman.

Odgers said the deal would give Maunsell direct access to the booming US market. The US firms, conversely, will be able to build business in the UK, Europe and the Far East via Maunsell.

AeCOM president Ray Holdsworth added: 'Maunsell has a worldwide reputation in bridge design and tunnelling. We are looking at the whole deal as part of our global strategy. We think the European and South East Asian economies are going to be strong again soon.'

AeCOM is the 212th largest privately owned business in the US, raising funds via employee share ownership. Maunsell is Britain's fifth largest consultant with more than 90% of its workload overseas.

The Maunsell merger will lift AeCOM close to the top 100.

Principal AeCOM companies are Daniel Mann Johnson & Mendenhall (Los Angeles), Frederic R Harris (New York), Holmes & Narver (California), Turner Collie & Braden (Houston), McClier (Chicago) and Consoer Townsend Envirodyne (Chicago).

The group operates as a decentralised business with its companies retaining their names and identities.

Odgers expected no redundancies. 'Our plan is to grow staff to 20,000 in the next few years. We expect 50% of these staff to be outside the US as opposed to one third at the moment.'

The deal is subject to approval by Maunsell's 167 existing shareholder employees before it can be concluded next month.

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