A question mark is hanging over the future of Anglo-Norwegian engineering and construction giant Kvaerner on Wednesday after a Norwegian rival bought a 26.4% stake.

Aker Maritime, which competes fiercely with Kvaerner's oil and gas operations in Norway, is now Kvaerner’s largest single shareholder after buying the stake, which is worth about £230m.

An Aker Maritime spokesperson refused to be drawn on the company’s plans for Kvaerner’s £979m-turnover construction operations, saying: “Obviously, we have some ideas on the further development of Kvaerner as a corporation and would like to discuss opportunities with other shareholders and the board."

However, a spokesperson for Kvaerner said: “There is no synergy at all between our construction, engineering and fabrication activities and Aker’s operation. The only synergies would be between our oil and gas businesses.

“As the primary shareholder, we expect them to be supportive of our strategic intentions.”

Aker employs 13 000 staff, including 1000 in the UK. Kvaerner is much larger, with 55 000 staff, 17 000 of whom work in construction.

A spokesperson for Aker would not rule out a full bid for Kvaerner but said this was not Aker’s intention at the moment.

A High Court judge was yesterday expected to rule on who should pay for court costs in legal action between Jarvis and its former auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers. Last week, Jarvis dropped its action to prevent PWC from publishing its letters of resignation. The dispute arose after PWC resigned as Jarvis’ auditor in March, days before the contractor’s year-end.