It is understood that Cooper intends to bring in former employees of Ballast Services, the contractor's PFI division. Hochtief aims to become one of the top public–private partnership suppliers in Europe by 2007 and intends to increase its workload in the sector 50%.
Industry sources said that Cooper had started work at Hochtief's office in Swindon, Wiltshire, and had visited the United States before Christmas on behalf of the contractor to advise on a PPP contract in Washington.
But it is believed that Cooper had not signed a contract of employment with Hochtief by the time Building went to press on Wednesday.
Cooper declined to comment on Hochtief. He said: "I'm looking for work at the moment, but nothing is yet confirmed."
A market source said that Hochtief would be looking to expand beyond the UK, and that America was high on the list of target countries.
The US defence, education and health markets are ripe for PPP and PFI work. At a conference two years ago, the US defence department conceded that it was well behind the Ministry of Defence in terms of outsourcing.
Hochtief's PFI focus seems still to be the UK. Sources close to Kent council said that the contractor had expressed interest this month in its £80m PFI schools project.
Hochtief also said this week that it has ruled out a takeover of British airports group TBI.
The creditors' committee, which was appointed last month, has effectively conceded that it will not get any money back. Ballast went into administration in October with debts totalling nearly £160m after its Dutch parent, Ballast Nedam, withdrew its financial support.
One committee member said that although creditors had written off the cash, they are still determined to establish who was at fault. He said: "We got an updated report from Deloitte and tossed things around for four hours, getting nowhere.
The general air is that we want to get together and go straight to the courts."
A group of Scottish subcontractors owed £5m from Ballast's East Lothian Schools PPP contract appointed a lawyer earlier this week in preparation for a court appearance, although it has not yet determined the nature of the action.
The creditors' committee might meet again, subject to the findings of a report reassessing the value of Ballast's contracts and assets by quantity surveyor Naismiths. The report is to be submitted to Deloitte by the beginning of March.