Deal between the firms on the cards after UK’s sixth-largest architect falls into administration

Aukett Fitzroy Robinson has resurrected plans to take over rival practice Archial after its collapse today.

The £34m-turnover company went into administration after HMRC refused to give it further leeway on the payment of a tax bill, the size of which was undisclosed. The firm employs 400 staff.

Takeover talks between Archial and Aukett collapsed in October 2007 after the latter said it had been “unable to agree satisfactory terms” for a deal with the company, which was formerly known as SMC.

On Wednesday a source close to the situation said: “Aukett has never lost interest and has remained in close contact since the talks collapsed a few years ago. Back then they couldn’t agree a price, now things are different.”

Nicholas Thompson, the chief executive of Aukett, declined to comment on whether the two companies had been in regular contact since 2007 but said: “If approached we¹d obviously show an interest in some form of purchase arrangement.”

It is understood that part of the attraction of the deal is that there is very little geographical or client overlap.

Aukett would have to raise the finance first as it has no ready warchest.

Estimating a price is difficult given Archial’s £13.5m debt pile and its tax liabilities. Other names linked to a possible takeover include Capita Symonds, Atkins and Aedas.

Meanwhile, Archial’s collapse has been met with dismay by fellow architects.

Thompson said: “This is a sad day for the profession. This was a big company and a people-based business that has been allowed to fail by HMRC.”

Robin Nicholson, senior member of Edward Cullinen Architects and former deputy chair of Cabe, said: “This is really bad news for the practice and the economy. Architects are out in front feeling the effect of changes in the economy, so it’s not a good signal if they are going bust.”

Alastair Stewart, an analyst at Investec, said: “We now seem to be entering a harsh new landscape in which banks are not only pulling the rugs on small and mid-sized companies but the tax man is joining in too. Expect other small and mid-sized companies to go.”