Dutch firm on hunt for further acquistion after announcing merger with EC Harris this week

Arcadis is on the hunt for a further acquisition to boost its presence in Asia, the company’s chief executive has revealed days after the firm announced its takeover of EC Harris.

Harrie Noy, who heads the Dutch engineering group, said that the company would “look at both Asian companies and overseas firms that have a presence there” - including from Europe and the UK.

Noy’s comments come after Building.co.uk revealed on Monday that the firm was set to buy EC Harris for an undisclosed sum plus three million Arcadis shares, worth €42.3m as Building went to press, with the total valuation estimated to be in the region of £125m. EC Harris’ partners are expected to approve the deal in a vote on 31 October, in a move that will create a €2.3bn-turnover consultancy with 19,000 staff.

The deal comes amid increasing consolidation among the key players in the consultancy sector, following Aecom’s takeover of Davis Langdon and CH2M Hill’s £230m purchase of Halcrow. In further moves this week, Turner & Townsend announced the purchase of $5m-turnover (£3.2m) US project manager Ferzan, Robbins & Associates, and Capita Symonds announced the purchase of architect ESA, adding 60 staff to its existing architecture business.

Noy said: “The world doesn’t stand still. We have a very strong ambition to grow in Asia - there are now 1,000 cities in China alone with more than one million people in them. There is
a lot of development investment in Asia.”

Noy identified EC Harris’ presence in Asia as one of the aspects that made it attractive to Arcadis. He said: “There was a geographic component [to the deal]. At the moment, we have only a minor position in the UK, and through EC Harris we will change that to a major one. We also see Asia and the Middle East, where EC Harris has strength, as strong markets in
the future.”

Philip Youell, EC Harris chief executive, who will now join Arcadis’ senior management committee, said that the two companies “share aspirations regarding Asia,” and that EC Harris is likely to increase overall staff numbers. It is understood that Arcadis is supportive of EC Harris’ existing M&A strategy, which includes the possibility of acquiring a business in
that region.

The deal has provoked dismay from some at the loss of another well-known independent name in UK quantity surveying. Peter Rogers, technical director at developer Stanhope, said: “There’s always the need for very large companies to compete in the global market. But I like to be able to know all the people I’m dealing with. The issue is also whether over time the character of the firm changes.”

Who is Harrie Noy?

The 60-year-old Arcadis chief executive joined the firm, then called Heidemij, on 1 January 1975, shortly after graduating from the building department at Andover University, and has spent his entire working life there.

An engineer by training, he started out as an urban and regional planner working on projects in Holland, becoming deputy MD of the consulting business in 1988. In 1993, he helped set up the US business following the acquisition of environmental consultant Geraghty & Miller. This success put him on the Arcadis executive team and he became chief executive of the firm in July 2000.

Quietly spoken and highly respected, he claims he never harboured any ambition to work in management. He says he has helped foster a European, rather than American, culture at Arcadis. “The character is we have a much greater understanding and sensibility of cultural difference than companies from the US typically have. That gives us competitive advantage in new markets.”