Aukett snaps up rival architects’ firm for £1.6m

Kasmira Jefford
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AIM-LISTED architectural firm Aukett Fitzroy Robinson (AFR) has snapped up the European arm of American rival Swanke Hayden Connell (SHCE) for £1.6m, in a further sign of returning confidence in the market.

The new company will be called Aukett Swanke and is expected to generate £16m in annual sales, employing 340 staff across eight countries.

AFR’s chief executive Nicholas Thompson, who will take the helm of the newly formed company, said SHCE’s American heritage made a “good fit” with its own European roots.

He added that the design firm’s strong presence in the City, where it has fitted out offices for banks such as Bank of America Merrill Lynch, complemented its own work with a large number of west end estates.

The pair will also merge their Moscow and London studios to help cut costs and “significantly” boost its market position in those markets.

“The two firms make an excellent commercial and cultural fit with complementary services and client portfolios. The future of the merged entity can only be good for clients, staff and shareholders,” Thompson said.

SHCE, which counts BNP Paribas, GlaxoSmithKline and Google among its clients, has offices in London, Sheffield, Istanbul and Moscow. It opened its London office back in 1989.

SHCE made a pre-tax loss of £560,000 on revenue of £6.4m in the year to 31 December 2012.

However, AFR said it traded profitably during 2013 and it “expects this to continue into 2014”. Its cash and share offer for the practice is expected to be completed on 27 December.

SHCE’s chief executive David Hughes will join the group as deputy chairman and its principal interior design director Nick Pell will become an executive director.

Thompson said the tie-up will not result in any job losses and that it plans to recruit more staff to its London office in the New Year.

Aukett, the UK’s only listed architectural practice, has helped to redevelop some of London’s most historic buildings, including the Royal Exchange near Bank which it redesigned with new shops and a restaurant in 2001.