France’s Bouygues and Spain’s Ferrovial have reportedly added themselves to the mix of bidders looking to acquire the Australian arm of UK-based engineering and services firm Laing O’Rourke.
The news, reported by The Australian on Monday, comes just over a week after group chairman Ray O’Rourke announced the Australian arm of the company would be sold, following unsolicited approaches from several parties late last year.
The Australian reported that three approaches were made: one from Ferrovial, another from Bouygues, and a third from an Asian bidder.
One name also tossed around in market speculation is CIMIC – the firm formerly known as Leighton – which announced last week a hostile takeover bid for smaller engineer Sedgman.
O’Rourke, who bought the struggling Laing Construction for £1 to create Laing O’Rourke in 2001, said the bids were “reflective of both the strength and attractiveness of [the Australian] element of the group which, having performed well in recent years, is now strongly positioned in the emerging infrastructure market with blue-chip clients, a solid pipeline, a talented leadership team and great people”.
However, with plans to invest capital in its UK and European business, O’Rourke said the time was right to sell the Australian arm, which was established in 2006 when the company acquired Barclay Mowlem from fellow British firm Carillion.
“If we seize these growth opportunities, further UK investments will be required especially in areas that promote our competitiveness and the attractiveness of our offering to clients,” O’Rourke explained.
Laing O’Rourke said it will not provide commentary during the sale process. It ensured its Australian hub would remain focused on the delivery priorities of clients and projects, and would continue to actively pursue a range of tenders.