International acquisitions at SNC-Lavalin: a focus on synergy

As is the case with many other Quebec-based companies, SNC-Lavalin’s growth strategy is partly based on foreign acquisitions. Naturally, it develops specific criteria to ensure their success. The acquisition of Atkins, a widely respected design, engineering and project management consulting firm, is a good example of this approach.

International acquisitions to drive growth

In the context of a relatively small Quebec market within a robust economy, Quebec-based companies are increasingly looking to secure their growth by acquiring foreign businesses. SNC-Lavalin developed a strategy combining organic growth opportunities through acquisitions. When carefully prepared and executed, acquisitions enable us to break into new markets, which is particularly true in the engineering and construction industry. The Atkins acquisition is a prime example of our strategy in action.

The Atkins case

Headquartered in the U.K., Atkins was an international, geographically diversified company that boasted roughly 18,000 employees. It was a leader in the infrastructure, transportation and energy sectors.

"Before launching the acquisition of a major business like Atkins, we developed a list of very specific criteria of what an ideal acquisition was for us. Finalized in July 2017, it not only paved the way to other sectors, but also generated revenue synergies."

A strong and respected company with a significant presence in Europe, the U.S. and the Middle East, Atkins’ operations complemented our own in terms of service offer and global reach. It was the top choice on our list of potential acquisitions, and represented a great opportunity to add its range of expertise to our own.

A creative financial package and structured integration

The $4 billion offer was financed thanks to SNC-Lavalin’s strong balance sheet, which included very attractive assets within our portfolio. Our challenge consisted in raising the required funds without selling off assets. We therefore leveraged our creativity and determination to develop a financial package with our financial partners, including the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec.

"Atkins was a highly renowned firm with a well-established corporate culture. The challenge was to keep everything that was working well, staying the course and maintaining what had made this business so successful."

It also bears mentioning that Atkins was already amenable to an acquisition proposal. A hostile takeover wouldn’t have been an option for us, since such a move creates a significant risk of failing during the integration process and losing talent. We were looking for a positive acquisition process. In the months following the acquisition, we implemented an integration plan that quickly and effectively merged both our companies. We defined potential synergies, identified the best practices and harmonized processes to ensure consistency across all teams.

The integration plan is still underway. In the coming months, our focus will be on finalizing the integration of the company. One thing remains clear for us: we will continue to leverage a targeted acquisition approach, underscoring the synergy between product offers, talent pools and geographic reach. Our successful acquisition of Atkins has shown that this combination of factors works well for us.

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