Water under the bridge for Costain

Marion Dakers
Costain, the construction firm that walked away from Mouchel’s stonewalling after four months, has plenty to be getting on with.

The firm has a forward order book worth £2.4bn, including a contract to build the first major road to cross the River Thames in 20 years.

While Mouchel seems to have slipped through the net for now (Costain has reserved the right to wade in again under the rules of the City Code), analysts expect the firm to instead move its attention to picking out smaller acquisitions.

Mouchel, meanwhile, is left floundering in the public sector services market alone.

Both Costain and Interserve cut their offers after examining the firm’s books, and last week’s results missed forecasts that were already revised downwards. The company is also likely to sell off assets in order to meet a debt repayment in May 2012 – further distraction from the day-to-day work that Mouchel management is desperate to focus on.

Mouchel needs to stage a spectacular turnaround to justify spurning two suitors that could have helped shield the firm from public sector turbulence. Only the most patient investors will stick around.