WS Atkins and WSP go head-to-head over $1bn rated Parsons Brinckerhoff

Bidding process understood to be at a second-round stage, with the engineering giants up against two private equity firms

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British engineering giant, WS Atkins is to go head-to-head against its Canadian counterpart, WSP, for Parsons Brinckerhoff, the $1 billion business responsible for the breakdown of merger talks between Balfour Beatty and Carillion.

The two trade rivals are understood to be competing with two private equity firms to take control of the global consultancy, a report by UK-based daily, The Telegraph, said.

Balfour Beatty’s US consultancy arm, Parsons Brinckerhoff was bought in 2009. A dispute over the sale of the division is behind the breakdown of merger talks between the two UK construction giants. Balfour Beatty wish to sell the division, but Carillion are determined to keep it.

According to the Telegraph report, the bidding process is at a second-round stage. It is being marshalled by Goldman Sachs. Sources suggest that one of the two trade buyers is more likely to win out, rather than one of the financial suitors.

It is believed that WS Atkins had attempted to bid for Parsons in 2009 and is now intent on ensuring it doesn’t miss out this time around.

However, Quebec-based WSP is understood to be equally determined to buy the consultancy, the report added.

Furthermore, analysts have questioned whether Parsons would be able to be sold, with one third of Balfour’s earnings coming from the US business. They warned that selling the consultancy would leave the group overly exposed to the rest of Balfour’s more unstable earnings.

In addition, the Sunday Telegraph understands that the Takeover Panel is looking into comments made by the executive chairman of Balfour Beatty, Steve Marshall, in the days following the collapse of the merger.

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