Amey finalised details of a circular to its shareholders confirming its financial position with its banks at a board meeting on Wednesday. This was Amey's deadline to issue the notice for the extraordinary general meeting, which is necessary to complete the sale.
A source close to Laing said that the buyer would have pulled out of the deal had Amey missed the deadline. The source said: "If Amey had asked Laing for more time to complete the deal, Laing would have said no."
Laing and Amey agreed in January that the deadline for completing the deal would be 14 March. However, the sale had to be approved by shareholders at an EGM. Under current stock exchange rules, Wednesday was the final day that notice could be given to hold an EGM before the deadline.
Amey had to show in the circular that its working capital position was in good order. However, it has been dogged by financial problems – hence the sale of the PFI portfolio. This meant that the company could only show a sound working capital position if its banks, led by Barclays, agreed to lend it £221m to cover its debts. It is understood that the banks signed off a loan earlier this week.
The source close to Laing added that Amey would have liked more time to secure its financing. He said: "Laing has always been concerned that Amey would miss the deadline. They [Amey] would always have liked it to be later."
Industry observers have been eagerly awaiting the circular to get some indication on the future of the business. Amey has received a bid approach, believed to have been made by a venture capitalist.
One source said: "I would have though that, as soon as the Laing deal was announced, the banks would have said what their terms were. There might have been some argy-bargy but it seems a long time to agree terms."
Amey chief executive Brian Staples left the company today, having quit at the beginning of January. He was widely criticised when the company made a profit warning last year, and the City has questioned some of his acquisitions. Staples was replaced by chief operating officer Mel Ewell.
Before Christmas last year, analysts suggested that Amey should have written off tens of millions of pounds on Comax, the US business services group that Amey bought in 1999. Amey had cut the value of its assets by £85m earlier in December.