A new top-tier name in the making

WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff is now merging with another major industry name after its acquisition of Mouchel. So what’s the plan? We asked the MD of the newly forming business, Mark Naysmith.

Announcement of WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff buying Mouchel Consulting in October marked the arrival of a new Tier 1 consultant across UK infrastructure. As the UK managing director of the new WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff Mouchel business, Mark Naysmith, told Infrastructure Intelligence: “On the whole our strategic plan is to create a Tier 1 highways and infrastructure consultancy. Previously we were already on the top tier of energy and property markets, while Mouchel has the same status in its own right in highways.”

The acquisition of Mouchel, for £75m from Kier, has added another 2,000 or so staff to a business that now numbers 7,100 and can boast a significantly strengthened presence in roads and transport planning, the water sector and local government.

"Given the complimentary fit of skills and the shortage of new talent coming through in the UK, particularly in the infrastructure sector, we’re not anticipating a redundancy programme to be necessary.” Mark Naysmith

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Mouchel Consulting would appear to lock quite nicely onto the structure of WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff, adding to the latter’s transportation and infrastructure division. “There is some overlap between the two businesses, mostly in strategic highways in England, but not much overall,” Naysmith said.

The newly merged consultancy business is now bidding as a single joined up organisation through Highways England’s Collaborative Delivery Framework – the principal area where both names previously competed. Acquiring Mouchel has added about another £120m of gross revenue to WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff’s £450m annual earnings.

The acquisition of Mouchel was also approached with an eye on growth through an expanded geographical footprint, Naysmith said: “Mouchel is particularly strong in the north of England and Scotland, so giving us a nice balance of locations. It also has a good client base in local government and lots of other strategic complementary fits, such as its ITS (intelligent transport systems) business, which is a renowned global skills set, plus expertise in land referencing.”

The task of integration started from day one where necessary to ensure clients continued to receive support without conflict of interest, Naysmith said. But the two businesses continue to run in parallel due to their differing financial years. The new combined consultancy will be formally created from the middle of 2017. A new company structure and leadership group will be revealed from January 2017, followed by a rebranding exercise.

Naysmith acknowledged that the lengthened company title is somewhat cumbersome as it stands, so one of the names may go. “We very much value the Mouchel brand, so we will continue as it is for now while the rebranding remains a work in progress,” Naysmith said.

He also gave reassurances when asked about the possibility of job cuts as the two businesses are combined: “Acquiring Mouchel forms part of our growth strategy, in terms of people, clients and sectors we work in. Given the complimentary fit of skills and the shortage of new talent coming through in the UK, particularly in the infrastructure sector, we’re not anticipating a redundancy programme to be necessary,” Naysmith said.

“This is helped by the fact that the majority of Mouchel’s support services have remained with Kier. So we’re welcoming new colleagues and consolidating our breadth of technical expertise, which becomes increasingly apparent the more I talk to people at Mouchel.”

Office moves and closures are not ruled out. The integration plan will bring teams together where they’re working in close proximity. “But we’ll only do this where it encourages co-working and collaboration to support our projects and clients,” Naysmith said.

He also pointed out that WSP has done this all before as reason to be optimistic that the merger will go smoothly. It’s now just over two years since the acquisition of Parsons Brinckerhoff was completed. “What we’re doing now is similar, very much a merger. We have the success of bringing the WSP and PB teams together to build on. I’m very pleased so far with how it’s going,” Naysmith said.

“These are exciting times. For infrastructure there is the big uplift in highways investment, plus HS2, aviation and other major projects coming. And in housing too the market for planning, assessments and supporting infrastructure is picking up again after the Brexit fallout, particularly in London, and it’s looking good for next year. The whole Brexit piece has been about uncertainty. Government’s recent announcements on infrastructure have given the industry renewed confidence.”