URS deal values consultant engineer at £161m but CH2M Hill has declared its own interest in the firm

A bidding war for engineering consultant Scott Wilson has been sparked after a £161m deal was tabled by US firm URS this morning.

Although a statement from Scott Wilson said a deal had been reached, moments later an announcement from US rival CH2M Hill declared its own interest in the firm and said an announcement would follow shortly.

Building revealed two weeks ago that the UK company was talking to two US firms about a takeover after receiving interest in the company from various sources, including European trade players. It is understood the board is keen to tap into the US market.

A source familiar with the mergers and acquisitions market in the consultancy sector said: “CH2M Hill would only make a statement like that if it could match or better that price.

“It’s a bit embarrassing that the auction is being played out in public like this but ultimately it’s not a lot of money for either firm.”

Speaking about the URS offer Scott Wilson chairman Geoff French said: “In an increasingly global marketplace, the board believes that a combination with URS will significantly enhance Scott Wilson’s future prospects and we are excited about our future together.”

The CH2M Hill statement said: “CH2M HILL has undertaken due diligence on Scott Wilson and is considering its position with respect to making a cash offer for Scott Wilson. CH2M HILL will make a further announcement shortly.”

The source added: “Scott Wilson may have shown favour for a deal with URS because the transaction began sooner or it is a better deal for management.”

The announcement comes on the same day that Scott Wilson published its results for the year ended 2 May 2010.

They show turnover of £340.4m, down 6% on last years figure of £360m, which was in line with City expectations. Operating profit was £23.9m up on £22.6m last year while growth from international business grew, representing 37% of total turnover.