Welsh Water pays pounds 21m for Acer Group

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WELSH WATER, the privatised utility, yesterday took an important step in its diversification beyond non-regulated businesses with the pounds 21m acquisition of Acer Group, the engineering consultancy, writes Neil Thapar.

The move follows the disposal of its 15 per cent stake in South Wales Electricity, the regional distributor, for about pounds 17m profit last December. Welsh Water will also assume Acer's pounds 27m debts and may pay an additional pounds 8m related to the future performance of the company.

It said the acquisition would enhance earnings and formed part of its strategy to expand by developing and applying its infrastructure service skills to wider markets.

Acer was formed in 1987 through the merger of Freeman Fox and Partners and John Taylor and Sons. In the four years to last 30 April, turnover has grown from pounds 32m to pounds 85.5m and profit before interest and tax from pounds 2m to pounds 7m.

In the UK, Acer is involved with motorway and road contracts for the Department of Transport and water and waste-water engineering and environmental contracts.

Overseas, its consultancy work includes the Bosphorus bridges and motorways in Turkey, road tunnels in Sydney and Boston, and Hong Kong's light railway.