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Opportunities open for Connell Wagner

THE Perth director of global engineering company Connell Wagner hopes its merger with two South African companies will boost the chances of winning work on major projects.

Connell has teamed up with infrastructure consultancy Africon and engineering and environmental consulting firm Ninham Shand to form Aurecon, with the name change taking effect this week.

The combined group will be based in Singapore and employ more than 6,700 people across 87 offices in 28 countries.

Perth director Charles Milazzo said the three-way merger would create a bigger pool of skills and resources, which would be a major boost for its proposal for a major WA project, which he declined to detail.

Connell Wagner in Perth counts Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton, Main Roads, Multiplex and the Department of Planning and Infrastructure as some of its clients.

Mr Milazzo said 180 people were employed at the WA division and the merger was not expected to affect employee numbers.

"It depends on this economic situation; I would like to say that we're going to get bigger and bigger but at the same time we're at the mercy of the economy," Mr Milazzo told WA Business News.

"Where there are projects we will continue to grow and obviously if there's a slowdown that affects us and the clients we're dealing with, we can't rule out a small contraction.

"It's like all consultants in this market."

However, he said the increased geographic spread following the merger would help smooth out those ups and downs in the economy, adding that the order book in South Africa was full for the next 12 months while WA's book was full for the next nine months.

Mr Milazzo said Connell Wagner looked around the world for merger opportunities and started talks with the South African companies in the middle of last year.

Former Connell Wagner chief executive and chairman Paul Hardy has been appointed as Aurecon's new chief executive, while former Africon chairman Jakes Gerwel will chair the combined entity.

"As Aurecon ... we are able to both provide greater opportunities for our employees and grow the bottom line for our shareholders," Mr Hardy said in a statement.

"Aurecon will also reduce our reliance on local business and allow for expansion into new markets within growing economies where we currently have little or no presence."

Aurecon expects to rank in the top 60 global consulting forms, based on revenue and businesses.

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