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The Deal: Jacobs Engineering Expands in Australia in SKM Purchase

Tickers in this article: JEC

NEW YORK (The Deal) -- California-based Jacobs Engineering Group agreed to pay A$1.3 billion ($1.2 billion) in cash for Australian infrastructure and mining engineer Sinclair Knight Merz Pty Ltd.

The deal values SKM at an enterprise value of A$1.2 billion, or just under one times its revenue of A$1.3 billion. The agreement will deliver a rich payday to about 660 employees of SKM, who are the only shareholders in the company.

Sydney-headquartered SKM provides engineering services for infrastructure projects, the mining sector, power and energy projects and the water and waste sectors. It makes about 90% of its revenue in Australia, where current projects include the expansion of Rio Tinto Group's Cape Lambert iron ore port in Western Australia and a joint venture with BHP Billiton Ltd. to develop infrastructure serving the mining company's Pilbara operations, also in Western Australia.

"Our capabilities and geographies have little overlap, enabling the combined companies to continue to expand client relationships and provide significant opportunities for employees," Jacob President and CEO Craig Martin said in a statement.

Australian engineering companies with strong links to the mining sector have come under pressure in the past year as mining companies have cut back on new projects. SKM's revenue has tumbled 16% from A$1.42 billion since its 2011/12 financial year and it has cut staffing levels from a high of 7,500 people.

The purchase of SKM will boost Pasadena-based Jacob's revenues by about 11% from $11 billion. Jacobs has a reputation for growing through acquisitions and has struck six deals in the past three years. The purchase of SKM will be its largest acquisition over that period, topping the December 2010 purchase of Aker Solutions AS, a Norwegian mining and metals engineering firm for which it paid an enterprise value of about $913 million.

SKM said its shareholders will vote on the transaction in November. Its board will take advice on the fairness of the offer from Lonergan Edwards & Associates Ltd. The company is taking financial advice on the deal from Greenhill & Co. and legal counsel from Jones Day.

Jacobs representatives weren't immediately available to respond to a request for its advisers' names. It is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and has a market capitalization of $7.64 billion. Shares in Jacobs closed Friday at $58.08.