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Major US players eye UK firms

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TWO BRITISH consultants are likely to be bought by US competitors in the next couple of months, according to Parsons Brinckerhoff chairman Bob Prieto.

The PB boss would not reveal names, but said the buyers were major players in the US transportation sector and had made 'limited forays outside their home market'.

He added: 'They have looked at firms like PB and Bechtel and concluded that we were adding substantial mass, capability and accessibility to projects elsewhere in the world.'

To gain these advantages Prieto said the US firms would look to establish an overseas presence through acquisition rather than organic growth because it was the cheapest option at present.

Prieto said he expected the acquisitions to continue. 'I think a number of British engineering firms will become part of global groups because that is what clients want, and a lot of thebuyers will come out of the US,' he said.

New York-based PB, the world's 11th largest design firm, has already acquired two UK engineering firms - Kennedy & Donkin and Merz & McLellan. Last year it was awarded the seven year programme management contract for the West Coast Main Line by Railtrack.Asked whether PB was looking to buy in the UK, Prieto said: 'If we see a company that would be a good fit within PB's global organisation, then we will look at an acquisition. There is none on the screen today. But do we look? We look every day.'

Prieto said PB had looked at the UK firms being targeted by US buyers, but claimed that they 'didn't fit our need'.

A full interview with Bob Prieto will appear in next week's NCE.

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