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Scott Wilson joins US giant URS for £218M

Scott Wilson’s 5,500 staff formally joined the ranks of US giant URS Corporation last Friday when the firm completed its acquisition of the UK business.

URS paid £2.90 a share for the consultant, valuing it at £218M.

Scott Wilson chief executive Hugh Blackwood becomes a URS senior vice president and will run URS’ international operations. He also joins the 10-strong URS management board.

Scott Wilson non executive chairman Geoff French left the business on Friday but will remain as chairman of the company pension scheme trustees and to help with “other issues”.

The $9.25bn (£6bn) turnover URS Corporation had fought and won Scott Wilson in a bidding war with rival US consultant CH2MHill. Its initial bid of £2.10 a share was trumped by CH2MHill with an offer of £2.45 forcing URS to up its offer significantly to win the company and its prized UK and international portfolio (NCE 8 July). The acquisition was approved by Scott Wilson shareholders in July.

Scott Wilson floated in 2006 when shares were priced at £1.58. At peak they reached £3.20. The firm delisted from the UK stock exchange on Friday.

“We had an opportunity to buy Scott Wilson at a fair price,” said URS chairman and chief executive officer Martin Koffel, speaking exclusively to NCE.

“Once we had decided on Scott Wilson then the right time to do the deal equals the opportunity to do it. I’d have done it at the peak or bottom of the market.

“We bought at a time when the value of UK firms is suppressed looking at their historic valuations. If you look at our price and compare it with long term values, it is a fair price.

“We bought at a time when the value of UK firms is suppressed”

Martin Koffel

“The market test was that if someone else was prepared to pay, it must be right.”

Existing non-US based URS staff in the UK, Ireland, Western Europe and the Middle East now report to Blackwood, giving the UK-based international operation a total staff of 7,200.

Offices of Scott Wilson and URS in the UK and Ireland are now operating as URS/Scott Wilson. Outside of the UK, URS offices remain as URS. The plan is that by 2012 all offices will be known simply as URS.

The Scott Wilson acquisition takes the total of URS staff to 46,500. Scott Wilson’s year end turnover for 2009/10 was £340M and profit was £13.6M. URS profit for the year end December 2009 was $267M (£173M).

“The acquisition of Scott Wilson opens the door to numerous opportunities for URS in major international infrastructure markets,” Koffel said. Blackwood said: “Our employees will be able to participate in larger and more complex projects.”

Blackwood paid tribute to departing chairman French. “Geoff has made a tremendous contribution to the organisation since 1968.  His surefooted chairmanship has seen the company through a period of significant growth, a successful flotation on the London Stock Exchange to securing our future as a key part of a major global operator,” he said.

Scott Wilson

The Scott Wilson Group was established as Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick & Partners in 1951.

It was the result of the merger of two engineering firms founded in 1945 and 1924 respectively. Sir Cyril Kirkpatrick and his partners were involved in construction of the concrete caissons for the D-Day Mulberry Harbours. William Scott and Dr Guthlac Wilson were responsible for the Royal Festival Hall in London. Scott Wilson was the UK’s 12th largest consultancy by turnover.


URS Corporation’s oldest predecessor company was founded in 1904. URS was established in 1951 as Broadview Research, active in the area of physical and engineering sciences.

In 1968 Broadview Research acquired United Research Incorporated and the company name was changed to United Research Services, later shortened to URS. Over the last 20 years it has been on a concerted programme of growth and acquisition and is now number 252 on the Fortune 500 company list and second in the “Engineering News Record” list of Top 500 design firms.

Key projects include World Trade Center reconstruction.

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