Sydney-listed infrastructure consultancy Cardno has executed an agreement for the acquisition of Texas-based engineering firm Haynes Whaley Associates.

Following finalization of the agreement Cardno will pay up to USD$22.25 million (approx. AUD$23.6 million) for Houston-headquartered Haynes Whaley, which will in future operate under the combined title of Cardno Haynes Whaley under the aegis Cardno’s operations in the United States.

Senior management in Haynes Whaley will become shareholders in Cardno as part of the transaction, and continue to play an active role in the company.

Cardno said it was pursuing the purchase of Houston-headquartered Haynes Whaley in order to expand the range of its Stateside operations, particularly in the area of structural engineering.

While Cardno has had a presence in the United States for a number of years now following a concerted acquisitions drive last decade, environmental work serves as the mainstay of its operations in the region.

Margins for the company fell in the US last year, partially on the back of a decline in environmental work due to improvements in the conditions surrounding the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

“The acquisition expands Cardno’s capabilities into the structural engineering field within the Americas,” said Andrew Buckley, Cardno’s managing director. “In particular, this expansion will drive additional opportunities for cross-selling structural engineering services to existing Cardno clients.”

Haynes Whaley employs around 100 staff, and in addition to its headquarters in Houston Texas also has offices in Reston, Virginia and Austin, Texas.

The firm boasts an impressive list of prestigious clients in both the private and public sectors, including the City of Houston, Walt Disney Imagineering, NASA, Exxon Mobil and the State of Texas university systems.

Cardno has embarked upon an ambitious acquisitions and expansion spree over the past decade, acquiring more than 40 companies since 2004.

The Queensland company has an 8000-strong workforce and a broad portfolio of international projects, ranging from construction work on Vietnam’s Phu My Bridge in Ho Chi Minh City, to conservation efforts in the San Francisco Bay-Delta.

The slated acquisition of Haynes Whaley evinces Cardno’s optimism about the US engineering sector, with Andrew Buckley telling The Courier-Mail that “all sectors except for Federal Government (work) are looking pretty good and improving.”

The company is far less upbeat about opportunities and prospects closer to home, however, stating during a briefing to an RBS Morgans conference that the situation in the Australia-New Zealand region “remains challenging.”