Serious Fraud Office launches Amec Foster Wheeler probe

Will Mann

Probe relates to wider SFO probe into consultancy Unaoil

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has launched an investigation into engineering group Amec Foster Wheeler.

The probe is scrutinising the firm’s dealings with Monaco-based consultancy Unaoil, which the SFO began investigating in July 2016.

The statement from the SFO said: “The director of the SFO has opened an investigation into the activities of Amec Foster Wheeler and any predecessor companies owning or controlling the Foster Wheeler business, together with the activities of any subsidiaries, company officers, employees, agents and any other person associated with any of these companies for suspected offences of bribery, corruption and related offences.”

The news comes less than a month after shareholders at rival contractor John Wood Group approved a takeover of Amec Foster Wheeler.

However, in a statement last night, Amec Foster Wheeler said the SFO’s investigation is “not expected to have an impact on the completion of the merger”, which is expected to take place in the fourth quarter of this year.

The firm also said: “The company confirms it has been informed by the SFO that it has now opened an investigation into Amec Foster Wheeler, predecessor companies and associated persons in respect of the Foster Wheeler business. The investigation focuses on the past use of third parties and possible bribery and corruption and related offences.

“Given the stage of this matter, it is not possible to estimate reliably what effect the outcome of it may have on Amec Foster Wheeler.”

John Wood Group, after going public with its share offer for Amec Foster Wheeler on 23 May 2017, said it was aware that its takeover target had previously provided information to the SFO.

A prospectus issued to John Wood Group shareholders said: “The SFO announced on 19 July 2016 that it is conducting a criminal investigation into the activities of Unaoil, and its officers, employees and agents, in connection with suspected offences of bribery, corruption and money laundering. Since that announcement, the SFO has announced that it has also opened investigations, related to its ongoing investigation into the activities of Unaoil, in relation to various other parties.

“The SFO has required [that] Amec Foster Wheeler produce information in connection with the SFO’s investigation into Unaoil. Amec Foster Wheeler considers that these matters may well develop into an investigation of Amec Foster Wheeler by the SFO.”

Amec Foster Wheeler provides consultancy, engineering, project management, operations and construction services, chiefly operating in the oil and gas, chemicals, mining, power, environmental and infrastructure markets. It employs 35,000 people globally and operates in more than 55 countries.

John Wood Group operates primarily in the energy, chemicals, industrial, and oil and gas sectors, working in 40 countries worldwide.

Unaoil works as a consultant in the energy sector, providing engineering, construction, operations and maintenance services, operating in the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa.

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