WSP is latest consultant is latest to consider growth by consolidation following profit warning

Retrenchment may have been a watchword of most of the sector during the recession, but the UK’s biggest consultants have, over the past year, increasingly been facing up to an opposite problem - the need to grow, and fast.

The pressure to expand to compete with huge international, multidisciplinary firms for work now seems to be reaching boiling point. Following EC Harris’ admission last week that it has held talks with firms over a potential merger, WSP’s Chris Cole has this week become the latest to signal an openness to consolidation, as he fights to strengthen the firm following a profit warning.

At this stage, such firms are keen to appear in control of their own destiny - and with an abundance of potential suitors to a large degree they are. But with every major deal struck, the options for everyone else are shrinking, and no one wants to be left on the shelf. Another major deal cannot be far away.