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Swedish buy makes WSP third largest consultant

WSP WAS this week poised to become Britain's third largest consultant after announcing a £72.7M agreed takeover of Swedish civils and structures firm Jacobson & Widmark (J&W).

J&W is one of four firms that dominate the Swedish construction industry. It employs around 2,000 staff and last year reported pretax profits of £15.3M on a turnover of £81.5M.

The move will boost WSP's workforce to over 5,000, taking it past Halcrow, Maunsell, Mott MacDonald and Arup.

It comes after WSP chief executve Chris Cole signalled his intention to make acquisitions in Scandinavia rather than in the United States (News last week).

WSP hopes to use the deal to gain access to the lucrative Scandinavian market and also to provide a platform for expansion into Eastern Europe.

J&W was chosen ahead of its three competitors because WSP saw potential synergies of culture, business outlook and management style.

'J&W is an almost perfect mirror of the services we offer, ' explained WSP Group financial controller David Freedman.

J&W will continue to trade under its own name, with little interference from its new owner, Freedman insisted.

The deal will be part financed by a one-for-two rights issue to raise £58M. The balance will be drawn from WSP's existing resources.

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