Global engineering group swoops for fast-growing Bristol engineering consultancy

May 3, 2024

Bristol-based engineering design consultancy Hydrock, which has grown rapidly through a string of acquisitions in recent years, has itself been snapped up by a global leader in its sector.

Hydrock, which employs more than 950 people across its 22 UK offices, is the third acquisition this year for new owner Stantec, a worldwide firm listed on both the Toronto and New York stock exchanges. 

The UK arm of the Canadian group opened a base in Bristol in 2018. It said adding Hydrock, which was founded in 1995, to its portfolio would grow its UK workforce by 30% and significantly bolstering its offering to the domestic market.

Hydrock has extensive capabilities in fire safety, energy and sustainability, civil and structural, MEP, transport, environmental and geotechnical services.

It has a well-established reputation for developing sustainable solutions for major infrastructure projects and landmark buildings across the UK.

It also combines supporting the energy transition and decarbonisation across UK infrastructure with operational delivery capabilities across the whole infrastructure lifecycle.

The group racked up seven acquisitions in less than as many years in niche areas such as transport planning and infrastructure, nuclear safety assessment and sensor technology, allowing it to enter new markets.

Stantec’s takeover, financial details of which have not been disclosed, coincides with the retirement of Hydrock CEO and founder of 29 years Dr Brian McConnell.

It also gives investment group BGF a successful exit. BGF’s Bristol office has provided £5.6m to support Hydrock’s organic growth as well helping fund its acquisition spree.

During the time of BGF’s investment, Hydrock significantly scaled its operations, expanded into new geographies and service lines and focused on larger projects in high-growth sectors.

As a result, Hydrock increased its revenues from £30m to £84m. BGF said its investment has delivered a six times multiple return and a 40% IRR (internal rate of return).

Dr McConnell said: “BGF has been an excellent partner and its investment in the business has played a critical role in our growth story.

“Over the course of the investment partnership, Hydrock has expanded its services and reach which has been supported through a programme of strategic acquisitions.

“I’m proud of the progress we have made in the last six years – all while keeping our distinctive culture very much alive.”

Hydrock has regularly been listed in the 100 Best Large Companies to Work For survey and was recently crowned Engineering Consultant of the Year at the Building awards.

BGF Bristol-based investor Paul Oldham said: “We are delighted to have supported the excellent Hydrock team through a highly successful six-year period of growth. Hydrock is a leading light in the field of sustainable engineering design.

“With a fantastic internal culture, it has always demonstrated a strong alignment with BGF’s principles of uniting purpose and profit. It has been a privilege to be part of Hydrock’s fantastic growth journey and we wish the entire team all the best for their next exciting chapter.”

Leading Hydrock through the integration journey with Stantec will be Dr Scott Elliott in the role of managing director.


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