Wednesday, September 16, 2015

“Engineering Firm Acquisition not about LEGO Architecture” says No One

WSP Global continues to acquire high-quality private firms with news reaching us this week the firm has acquired Halvorson and Partners ("H+P"), a 40-person structural engineering firm based in Chicago. WSP has some kind words to welcome their new employees:
“H+P has completed structural designs for high-profile, award-winning projects throughout the U.S., as well as internationally through an office in Shanghai and a strong presence in the Middle East. Its portfolio includes the Burj Mohammed Bin Rashid Tower in Abu Dhabi, which won the "2015 Best Tall Building Award" for the Middle East and Africa from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. Other prominent projects include: OneEleven, a 60-story luxury apartment tower in Chicago which recently won a "Best Project Award" from the Structural Engineers Association of Illinois; Wolf Point West Tower, the first tower in a multi-phase US$1 billion development along the Chicago River in Chicago; and Vantone Tower, a 600-foot-tall corporate headquarters in Tianjin, China.”
This, of course, comes in the context of the much larger acquisition by WSP in 2014 of Parsons Brinckerhoff which extended WSP’s service capabilities around the world. The acquisition seems mostly to have been about expanding their position in land and air civil engineering services. WSP goes on to say about their current service offerings: The firm provides services to transform the built environment and restore the natural environment, and its expertise ranges from environmental remediation to urban planning, from engineering iconic buildings to designing sustainable transport networks, and from developing the energy sources of the future to enabling new ways of extracting essential resources.”

Trying to derive WSP’s growth strategy from its behavior is difficult. Not only because it’s not my area of expertise but also because from the preliminary evidence presented they seem bent on global domination through acquisition. Locally the firm has multiple offices in Calgary spread around the city but offers little information on its website on what distinguishes each office. I assume in Calgary each is rooted in different phases of oil production. But considering all the small offices located around Canada, growing to 500 offices located in 37 countries around the world, that means a lot of money being sent back to the mothership. WSP Global’s headquarters are in Montreal.

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