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Merger mania and takeovers set to snowball during 2002

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The architectural profession can expect a surge in merger and acquisition activity this year as the trend for consolidation within the property sector snowballs. A survey of architects, surveyors and quantity surveyors revealed that more than half of these businesses had either approached or been approached by another firm with a view to a merger in the past year.

This figure climbs to two thirds for mid-sized firms. Nearly 80 per cent believed this level of acquisition activity would continue or increase through 2002.

The survey, compiled by analysts with accountant Smith & Williamson, also revealed that 19 per cent of architectural firms were currently seeking a merger or acquisition, while 81 per cent said they would be open to any offers that were tabled.

Colin Ives, professional practices partner with Smith & Williamson, said such discussions concentrated on potential economic and commercial benefits and, in the current economic climate, many of these initial discussions were more likely to lead to merger.

Other key trends identified by the Smith & Williamson survey included the expansion by UK property firms into Europe - seen as the most lucrative area for international growth. Respondents considered other important markets to be US/Canada, the Far East and Australia/New Zealand.

The survey also found that the joint top priorities for these firms were the retention of key partners and staff and the improvement of the quality and size of clients.

It concluded that business confidence remains high despite the 11 September attacks, with 70 per cent saying they were confident about their firm's prospects.

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