Elliott builds significant stake in WS Atkins following agreement of merger terms

Oliver Gill
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Abseilers Descend To Clean The Chirk Aqueduct
The Elan Valley aqueduct is one of WS Atkins' many projects (Source: Getty)

Activist investor Elliott has built up a significant stake in WS Atkins, as the UK design firm prepares to put a £2.1bn takeover approach to shareholders.

A regulatory filing earlier today revealed Elliott has amassed a 6.8 per cent stake in the FTSE 250 firm.

In early April shares in WS Atkins rocketed around 30 per cent after it revealed it was in talks with Canadian construction group SNC-Lavalin.

And last week, both firms indicated the deal would be put before shareholders after agreeing terms.

WS Atkins chairman Allan Cook said: "We believe that the offer from SNC-Lavalin represents an attractive and certain value in cash today for Atkins shareholders reflecting the high quality of the business, its people and its future prospects."

Read more: A Canadian group is set to buy Britain's WS Atkins in £2.1bn deal

Elliott, meanwhile, is currently involved in a number of high profile corporate battles.

It is pushing for Dulux-owner AkzoNobel to enter into negotiations with US rival PPG over a potential merger, putting pressure on mining giant BHP Billiton to restructure operations, and working with Chinese investors of Italian football club AC Milan to try and unseat its current chief executive.

A spokesperson for Elliott declined to comment on the position it has taken in WS Atkins.

WS Atkins has worked on a variety of UK projects including an Elan Valley aqueduct, the Thames Tideway Tunnel and the redesign of Trafalgar Square.

Half of its revenues are generated from projects outside of Britain, with contracts to design the Yas Waterworld in Abu Dhabi, a Las Vegas flood control plan and a public library in Borg Al Arab, Egypt.

Read more: British engineering firms attract foreign suitors

Meanwhile, SNC-Lavalin is headed up by Scotsman Neil Bruce, who was previously chief operating officer and executive director of Amec.

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