Aecon Pulls Out of Gordie Howe Bridge Bidding Amid Takeover

(Bloomberg) -- Canadian construction company Aecon Group Inc., the target of a takeover by a Chinese rival, has withdrawn from a group bidding on a new bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.

John Beck, Aecon’s chief executive officer, said the decision to withdraw from bidding on the Gordie Howe International Bridge has nothing to do with the proposed C$1.2 billion ($930 million) takeover by China Communications Construction Co Ltd. The deal is being reviewed by the Canadian government on national security grounds.

Beck said Aecon is too busy to get the project off the ground in the timeframe wanted.

"We have been bidding on a lot of work over the last year, and we’ve won our share -- maybe more than our share," said Beck said in a telephone interview Friday.

Aecon has won several contracts in recent months that will strap its resources, he said, including contracts to build the Site C Project -- a hydroelectric dam and generating station in British Columbia -- as well as a contract to help build Montreal’s C$6.3 billion Réseau express métropolitain network. Last month, it also won a contract to build the Finch West Light Rail Transit project in Toronto.

Aecon shares rose 0.8 percent in trading Friday to C$18.16 a share as of 1:37 p.m. in Toronto.

‘Very Busy’

“We’ve picked up, in our share of those contracts, over $2 billion of business. We already have $4 billion worth of backlog. Not only do we have to execute them but we also have to start them all up over the next few months," he said. "Our resources are very substantial, they’re very deep, but they’re going to be very busy with these projects."

He said construction on the Gordie Howe bridge is expected to start a month after the contract is awarded. "It was decision based on the practical aspects, the resource aspects, and the commercial aspects. We felt we should bow out," he said.

Beck maintained that the decision had nothing to with the proposed takeover, which is currently the subject of a review under the Investment Canada Act.

“It doesn’t relate at all. I understand why some people may want to interpret that. But that’s not the case," he said. “There are Chinese companies that operate in the United States right now. It’s not like they’re not welcome. They’re there.”

Beck said he expected that review to be completed by the end of the second quarter.

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