AusRAIL, Market Sectors

GHD boss not interested in sale

<span class="" id="parent-fieldname-description"> Ian Shepherd, chief executive of Perth-based engineer and professional services company GHD, says the company is best left in private hands for now. </span> <div>Just nine months after rival firm Sinclair Knight Mertz (SKM) was bought by US-based Jacobs Engineering, Shepherd told The Australian this week that GHD – an employee-owned business – would do well to stay that way.<br /><br />“We have been able to show, particularly over the past few years, that we can grow up to 30% per annum as a private company,” Shepherd was quoted on Monday.<br /><br />“We have the capital structure to do that. We don’t believe that we need to list or to sell out to another player.”<br /><br />Prior to SKM’s sale to Jacobs for $1.3bn, the former was owned by 660 of its 6500 employees – a structure largely credited with its success.<br /><br />GHD is structured similarly, with between 15% and 20% of its employees owning a share of the company.<br /><br />But unlike SKM’s former employee-owners, GHD’s employee-owners are unlikely to see a pile of cash any time soon, Shepherd has signalled.<br /><br />“We just see ourselves as being able to maintain our own identity, build our own brand around the world and offer a very client service-led outcome,” he said.<br /><br />Shepherd’s sentiment bucks a recent trend: British engineering firm Hyder Consulting is the subject of a bidding war between Dutch firm Arcadis and Japanese firm Nippon Koei, which is seeing it valued at around $512m. London-listed Balfour Beatty last week announced it would sell its Parsons Brinckerhoff consulting business to WSP Global for $1.35bn, as well.<br /><br />And while Shepherd says GHD isn’t on the market, the engineer has been in the mood to buy smaller players for itself as of late. The company acquired Canadian engineer Conestoga-Rovers and Associates (CRA) in July for around $1.5bn. It also bought architecture firm Woodhead, bringing its global staff figure to 8500 people.<br /><br />Woodhead is an Australian company with offices in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.<br /><br />CRA is a global engineering and consulting firm based in Ontario, Canada. Its North American location has been flagged as a key asset to GHD by Shepherd, who told The Australian: “North America is very important to us.<br /><br />“It is the world’s largest economy. From a western country point of view, it has the youngest demographic and we just believe that there is a lot of potential in the services we provide.”<br /><br /><em><strong>This article was originally published in Rail Express sister publication, the Australian Bulk Handling Review.</strong></em>