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Professional services company Mouchel targeted in takeover proposals

Professional services firm Mouchel, which has an office in Holywood and has carried out work for Roads Service and Northern Ireland Water, has become a takeover target - two years after its near collapse forced it into the hands of lenders.

The company, which provides consulting and business services on road building and other public sector projects, is in the bid sights of Kier, although the construction firm insisted there is no certainty a deal will be completed.

The interest in Mouchel comes as the government announces plans to spend £15bn on around 100 new road projects over the next five years.

Mouchel was seized by its lenders in a pre-pack administration in the summer of 2012 after shareholders failed to back a last-ditch restructuring, which would have wiped out much of its £140m debt.

It marked the final chapter in a huge decline in value for the group, which previously turned down takeover offers from rivals Costain and Interserve for more than £150m.

The firm, which built the first UK skyscraper - the Royal Liver Building - in 1909, was seized by its lenders, the Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds Banking Group and Barclays.

Since coming out of administration it has restructured, losing around 1,500 staff in two years to currently employ around 6,500.

Broad-based construction firm Kier's move for Mouchel comes after it bought support services firm May Gurney for £221m last year.

A deal to buy Mouchel would boost Kier's civil engineering unit.

Apart from a number of road and civil engineering contracts with UK local authorities and agencies such as Transport for London, Mouchel also helps maintain the road network in Western Australia.

The UK Government's roadbuilding plan will add 1,300 miles of new lanes to motorways and A roads. The projects include a tunnel to tackle a bottleneck at Stonehenge on the A303 and improved M25 junctions.

Mouchel is valued at £400m by financial online blog Betaville.

Kier, which is building a new grandstand at Cheltenham Racecourse, reported £3bn of turnover with pre-tax profit of £73.1m for the year to the end of June.

Mouchel reported a pre-tax profits of £20.8m last year on revenues of £555m.

Kier can trace its roots back to 1928 when Danish civil engineer Olaf Kier came to the UK and together with fellow expatriate and engineer Jorgen Lotz formed the firm which was one of the early pioneers of reinforced concrete construction.

Mouchel has been behind major building projects for more than a century after Frenchman Louis Gustave Mouchel brought the patent for reinforced concrete to the UK in 1897.

Belfast Telegraph