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Oct 27, 2017

‘Nothing will change’: Aecon’s CEO says Chinese owner won’t have influence

Aecon CEO: China's CCCI will have 'no influence' on our day-to-day business

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Aecon's chief executive officer is trying to dispel concerns about the sale of his company to a Chinese construction giant, arguing the deal will give Aecon the heft it needs to compete with foreign rivals.

"We will be bulked up financially by the presence of our partners and will be able to compete on an equal footing with many international contractors that are now present in Canada - that have been attracted into Canada by our governments," Beck told BNN in an interview Friday.

"We are now small compared to the large players, and we need to be able to compete on an equal footing for the benefit of Canada," he said.

Beck argued his company has been left out in the cold in its home country recently because major rivals have been winning the most prestigious contracts. 

"In the last year and a half, no significant new [contract] awards," he said. "They've all been lost - all of them - to very large international players who have been very aggressive in their pursuit of contracts."

Aecon Group announced Thursday it struck a deal to be purchased by the overseas investment arm of China Communications Construction Company for $20.37 per share in cash, for a total equity value of $1.45 billion.

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    Aecon’s fingerprints can be found across Canada’s energy industry, including in the oil sands and nuclear sector – leading to some concern about handing over control of the company to a foreign entity.

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sought to reassure the public on Thursday, with a vow to scrutinize the deal.

    “Canada, as a general rule, is open to investment. ... But we have to make sure that it’s in the best interest of Canadians – both in the interest of Canadian workers and Canadian communities – and also aligned with our concerns around security and safety,” he said.

    “That’s why we have an Investment Canada Act that is actually tasked with examining investments exactly like this one, which will be examined very carefully.”

    Aecon and CCCC have gone out of their way to sell the benefits of the deal, noting Aecon will retain its Canadian headquarters, benefit from its new owner's financial strength, and continue living up to Canadian corporate governance standards.

    "That new ownership will have no influence over our day-to-day activities," Beck told BNN, noting he'll play a big role in choosing his successor as CEO.

    "[Aecon's] new CEO will have the same values, the same culture, the same way of doing business that we've always had here in Canada. Nothing will change as far as Aecon is concerned."