The law of the jungle rules this week, whether you are competing for the affections of a French firm, or in a talent-contest-style selection process – or just acting like a guerrilla

Contractor, shy, WLTM 3i

Connaught doth protest too much – that was the conclusion of some in the City last week following talk that private equity firm 3i was looking to snap it up and merge it with its Enterprise outsourcing business. The story sent the share price up 2%, which as some pointed out, wasn’t exactly headline-grabbing. But it was enough to send the company’s excitable spin doctors into full-on denial mode “with the haste of an Olympic sprinter”, in the words of Kevin Cammack at Cenkos Securities. Their stern statement informed us that Connaught had received no approaches “formal or otherwise”. This failed to quash rumours of 3i’s interest and, as Cammack pointed out, served as more of a “come and get me plea”. What ever happened to playing hard to get?

Small-scale Simon says

You may not know John Cowell, a consultant who has advised large contractors including Kier on winning work. But you have almost certainly heard of his showbiz brother Simon, who is a judge on, well, most things. You might think the worlds of the brothers would rarely meet, but I understand John plans to “bring the Cowell school of helping the little guy to construction” by offering his services to small firms. For their sake, we hope this doesn’t extend to withering remarks about their lack of talent, boring delivery and lack of personality …

What's French for cad?

What’s French for cad?

I gather French contractor Bouygues is on another quest for a UK acquisition. The firm, which is under some pressure from its Paris HQ to find a follow up to its solitary deal to buy Portsmouth-based Warings in 2007, has this time cast the net further and wider than before, I am reliably informed by one industry dealmaker. The only problem, he says, is that companies contacted by Bouygues gain the impression they are have been singled out for attention owing to some unique quality that the French firm has spotted. My man says: “It can be quite a tricky conversation when I have to break it to them that they are one in a very long list of firms.” Nobody likes to hear that they are easily in their fiancé’s 50 favourite potential mates, do they?

Getting the boot camp

… but the X Factor approach has spread further, it seems. Network Rail has invited all firms prequalified for the upcoming Kent Spur to come down for a “you’re fired/hired” meeting. A handful of contractors will be told they’re invited to tender, while the rest will presumably be told to step off the stage, work on their routines and catch the train back to their offices. I wonder if the cost of their tickets will be reimbursed.

A little local difficulty

The Department for Transport has gone to great lengths to keep the detailed route of High Speed 2 – the country’s proposed north–south high speed rail link – under wraps. So when it finally unveiled the map last week, we were delighted to see the plans looked smart and exciting.

Indeed, they apparently involved the building of a whole new city, to be called Birminham. How exciting, we thought – until two hours later when the press office revealed it was just a typo.

Who’s top guerrilla?

Andrew Osborne, deputy chairman of the eponymous contractor, recently showed his support for Building’s Charter 284 campaign by ambushing Stephen Timms, financial secretary to the Treasury, at a groundbreaking ceremony for the firm’s maternity centre for Newham University Hospital NHS Trust in east London. The unsuspecting MP had barely downed his shovel when Osborne foisted on him a copy of the LEK report – the research that shows each pound spent on construction produces £2.84 of GDP. I applaud Osborne’s excellent use of guerrilla tactics and would love to hear if anyone else can top this …