Employee-owned firm plans for “significant growth” as latest acquisition boosts sustainability & climate change skill base
Simon: Climate Change Rules!
It is second-time lucky for Sinclair Knight Merz (SKM), the Australian professional services firm, which announced yesterday that it is in the midst of purchasing one of the best-known names in UK environmental consultancy, Enviros.
SKM bid for Enviros several years ago, but could not compete against Alfred McAlpine, explained SKM chief executive Peter Dougas, speaking with Environment Analyst.
Times have changed and Carillion’s decision to sell the consultancy less than one year after it bought it as part of a package of companies owned by Alfred McAlpine has been to SKM’s advantage (Environment Analyst 17-Sep-09).
Announcing the impending sale, Carillion said that SKM has agreed to purchase Enviros “for a net cash consideration of some £27 million, subject to completion balance sheet adjustments”. Carillion will use proceeds of the sale to reduce net borrowing, in line with its objective “of reducing this at the year end to below the half-year level of £146 million”. A further announcement from Carillion will be issued once the sale is complete.
Whether the final price paid by SKM proves lower than the headline £27 million figure or not, the Australian firm will have purchased Enviros for less than what Alfred McAlpine paid in 2007. The deflationary impact of the recession is clear: at the time of Alfred McAlpine’s purchase, Enviros was valued at £30 million.
Having been purchased three times in the space of just three years, Enviros staff may be pleased to hear that their latest owner takes a long-term view of its acquisitions and that “significant growth” is very much on the agenda. “We think Enviros has addressed recessionary impacts and our plans are for growth,” said Dougas, implying that further redundancies at Enviros are not on the horizon.
Dougas also said that SKM hopes to find a way to allow Enviros staff to share its parent company’s employee-based ownership model.
While the UK market is not expected to grow substantially in the short term, SKM operates globally from 42 offices and employs about 6,500 staff. Its goal is to incorporate sustainability into all aspects of its work, said Dougas, and Enviros’ expertise, particularly in climate change and energy, should assist in this.
SKM works in four “broad markets”: buildings and infrastructure; mining and metals; power and industry; water and environment. Founded in Sydney in 1964, the company is seeking to grow and has completed 56 mergers and acquisitions since 1996. In autumn 2008 it bought UK sustainable building design firm Environmental Design Consultants and in spring 2008 it merged with Australian environmental consultancy REM.
Meanwhile, Enviros is ranked as the third-largest consultancy (by turnover) in the UK climate change/energy and waste management/recycling sectors in Environment Analyst’s 2009 market assessment. In the boom years running up to the current recession Enviros failed to grow at the same speed as its competitors, however, it has a strong reputation and pedigree. Recently-released financial results for 2008 indicate a turnover of £26.4 million, down 4%, and an operating profit of £1.7 million, spectacularly up from £384,000 in 2007 (Environment Analyst 24-Sep-09).
Globally, SKM claims an environmental consultancy turnover of £70-80 million and a network of environmental staff numbering approximately 1,000. Until now, SKM has been a far smaller player in the UK environmental consultancy sector than the likes of Enviros, although still ranked within the lower half of the top hundred companies in the field, according to Environment Analyst’s market assessment.
Environment Analyst understands SKM’s UK environmental consultancy turnover to be less than £3 million per annum, generated by a team of around 30 staff. SKM’s primary UK environmental revenue streams have been environmental impact assessment/strategic environmental assessment and contaminated land-related work, both of which are likely to have been affected by recession.
SKM’s imminent purchase appears to be popular with Enviros management and staff. “It has gone down really well. After having been owned by private equity and then two plcs it is reassuring for our staff that SKM is an employee-owned company,” commented Enviros’ marketing director, Nigel Clark.
Nevertheless, Clark described Carillion as a sympathetic owner: “Carillion’s been a good home for us in many ways, particularly during recession. Senior management at Enviros thought SKM was the best fit amongst the potential buyers, but we weren’t running the sales process, so we should be grateful to Carillion for choosing such a good owner for us.” Carillion has also become an important new client for Enviros and the two organisations have a trading agreement in place that will continue after the sale.
Environment Analyst understands that interest in Enviros was strong, with trade buyers dominating the bidding. Chief amongst leading bidders were consultancies already active in environmental consultancy seeking to expand their UK activities and/or consultancies wishing to develop environmental advisory practices. Direct competitors from within the UK environmental consultancy sector are not thought to have been significant bidders.
Hopes are high at both SKM and Enviros that the purchase will bring growth and stability. Dougas told Environment Analyst that the cultural fit between the two companies is a good one and emphasised that SKM feels it already knows many figures within Enviros, the two consultancies having worked together in the past. Clark echoed this sentiment, describing the two companies as having a “similar style” and adding that Enviros is excited at the prospect of increasing the amount of overseas work it does.