US firm snaps up 13% of Scott Wilson shares and plans higher counter bid

US consulting giant CH2M Hill is preparing to beat URS’s £161m offer for UK engineering consultant Scott Wilson, a source close to the situation has said.

The move will follow CH2M Hill’s purchase of 12.97% of Scott Wilson at 245p per share today, a move designed to strengthen its hand during its takeover battle with American rival URS.

The battle was sparked by an announcement this morning that URS has tabled an offer for the company of 210p per share, which Scott Wilson has recommended to shareholders.

It is understood CH2M Hill is putting the finishing touches to a bid of its own that will be higher than the £161m offered by URS.

“Things are moving quickly. Watch this space,” the source said. Building understands any future bid for the company will be above the 245p per share it has already paid for the 13% chunk of the company – a price that was 14% higher than the URS bid of 210p per share.

The source said the battle for Scott Wilson had gone public because CH2M Hill was unhappy with the way the bidding process had been set up. Under the so-called matching rights system, URS was privy to any bid made by CH2M Hill and then had the opportunity to match it. Building understands CH2M Hill felt this left it at an unfair advantage.

Scott Wilson’s share price has risen 68% since the start of the month to 252p on the back of the takeover speculation and the market cap this afternoon of £186m was above URS’ £161m offer.

Asked this morning whether Scott Wilson would consider an approach from CH2M Hill if it upped its price, finance director Sean Cummins said: “URS are the favoured route because  they were first in the game and over the past two months we have built up a relationship with them. We can only make decisions based on facts so if new facts become available, under our fiduciary duties, we would have to examine them.”