Stef Stefanou, chairman of rival subcontractor John Doyle Group, said the deal was an enormous fillip for the specialist sector and a boost for construction as a whole. He said: "If they can conclude the transaction and then go on to succeed with the acquisition, that would be open testament to how efficient, progressive and innovative our sector of the industry has become.
"It would also prove to the City that the construction industry is nothing like as bad as it has been allowed to make it out to be." Stefanou said the challenge was a significant one. "If they are going to succeed, they are going to have to change a whole culture."
Cyril Sweett chairman Francis Ives said the deal was an interesting move for O'Rourke. He said: "I think the Laing name is still worth a lot of money. From now on, we would put them back on tender lists."
Foster and Partners director Ken Shuttleworth was full of praise for the deal. He said: "O'Rourke is a very professional company. If Laing went there would be hardly any large contractors left on tender lists."
Clients supported the move, saying that were no major concerns over warranties or guarantees with Laing becoming part of a smaller private company. Stanhope director Peter Rogers said: "As far I am concerned, it's a great idea for O'Rourke and a good idea for Laing."
Rogers added that there were big liability issues still hanging over Laing. He said: "I doubt whether it's worth much money." BAA, which has both Laing and O'Rourke on its framework supplier list for the Terminal 5 project, said the combination of the two would be beneficial.
T5 project director Norman Haste said: "I am reasonably relaxed about it. It will bring benefits for BAA particularly in terms of management provision and resources."
It’s good to see Laing remaining in UK ownership rather than in European hands
Peter Saunders, senior partner, Gardiner & Theobald
O’Rourke is a great company and has been very successful because it has specialised. Laing will be a different story for it
It’s an act of ambition by O’Rourke; an act of desperation by Laing
It’s all about the management team. If that disappears, they have bought a pig in the poke
George Brumwell, general secretary, UCATT
The new leaders will no longer be old-style builders but consultants and specialists
Rudi Klein, Specialist Engineering Contractors Group
How the deal could be doneAlthough Laing is understood to be offering a £60m sweetener, there are three ways the deal could go. The options hinge on who takes responsibility for existing contracts. The options are:
- O’Rourke takes on the whole business, including responsibility for the contracts, which would lower the price that it pays for the contractor
- O’Rourke takes on the whole business, but the price that it pays for Laing depends on the outcome of the existing contracts
- The business is taken on by O’Rourke, but Laing guarantees the contracts.