OIO still working as Canada's WSP cleared to acquire Opus International

WSP was waiting on regulatory sign-off before declaring its $283.9 million takeover unconditional.

Canada's WSP Global Inc has gained Overseas Investment Office approval to acquire locally listed engineering consultancy Opus International Consultants, allowing it to declare the deal unconditional and allaying fears the OIO's work had stalled since the election.

WSP was waiting on regulatory sign-off before declaring its $283.9 million takeover unconditional having crossed the 90 percent threshold needed to mop up hold-out shareholders earlier this month. The Canadian firm applied for OIO approval in mid-August, before the general election, and is one of the first to be cleared under the new Labour-led administration.

"The approval from the Overseas Investment Office now enables the acquisition process to be completed and the amalgamation of our two companies to begin," Opus chair Keith Watson said in a statement. "Opus's new ownership will create a significant opportunity for our people and clients, and we look forward to the benefits and strengths the joining of our companies will bring to us and the industry we serve."

Last week the government said it had begun policy work to further tighten the sale of local assets to foreigners beyond the initial announcement of an effective ban on overseas buyers of existing residential property, raising fears all applications before the OIO were in limbo.

Other applications involving listed companies before the OIO include Vital Healthcare Property Trust's conditional deal to purchase and redevelop two private hospitals and OG Oil & Gas's partial takeover of energy explorer and producer New Zealand Oil & Gas.

WSP has received acceptances for 95.2 percent of the shares in Opus, with its offer formally closing today, after which it will exercise its right to buy the remaining stock. The shares rose 0.6 percent to $1.76, still below the $1.92 offer price.