Architect’s managing director says his firm was put under pressure to conclude merger

Architect Pascall + Watson has withdrawn from acquisition talks with Atkins after claiming it was put under pressure to rush through a deal.

Building revealed in November that Atkins was negotiating to buy Pascall + Watson, in a move that would have made the it the second largest practice in the UK.

Talks have now broken down as Pascall + Watson feared it was being pushed into a deal that would have cost it too much of its independence.

Phil Holden, managing director of Pascall + Watson, said once the story became public the firm was put under pressure to hurry the takeover.

He said: “Things began to move at a pace we couldn’t keep up with and we felt we would lose the essence of the company. We withdrew [from negotiations] to maintain our independence.”

We have told staff we will carry on as an independent firm and they are delighted

Phil Holden, Pascall + Watson

He emphasised that Pascall + Watson was not up for sale and that he would be wary of similar deals in the future. He said: “We won’t be repeating this scenario. It was a nightmare. We have told staff we will be carrying on as an independent firm and they are delighted.”

The management of Pascall + Watson called staff together to confirm that they were negotiating with Atkins after the publication of the original Building story.

Speaking at the time, Paul Ruggles, a director at the firm, said that it was “a serious offer” and one that the practice was considering.

Atkins would not confirm or deny whether negotiations with Pascall + Watson had broken down but a spokesman said: “We have a good relationship with Pascall + Watson and hope to continue working with them on projects in the future.”

In 2005 Pascall + Watson employed 146 staff, and had a healthy growth rate. For the year ended April 2005 turnover rose by 23% to £11.3m, from £9.2m in 2004. Gross profit rose from £2.3m in 2004 to £2.4m in 2005.