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    Suters and DWP arrangement moves from alliance to acquisition

    Nathan Johnson

    The Australian Financial Review reports that Australia’s Suters architects has been acquired by Bangkok-based firm DWP, consummating a four-year alliance between the two firms.

    Current chief executive of DWP|Suters and revered figure for women in Australian architecture, Leone Lorrimer will become the new chief executive of the combined group of 450 people.

    Lorrimer told the AFR that the new arrangement was a logical step after a four-year strategic alliance, one that she predicts could double the revenue of the firm over the next five years.

    She anticipates that the acquisition will give DWP|Suters' clients a deeper pool of specialised knowledge, allowing DWP’s hospitality design experience to shine on Australian shores and Suters to export its healthcare design expertise to Asian countries more easily.

    The acquisition is also good news for the Suters office, which is likely to grow from its 140-staff currently as operations expand around the country.

    KNOWLEDGE POOL

    The acquisition comes at an otherwise relatively settled time for Australian architecture firms.

    Besides an alliance between Adelaide’s Tectvs and Italian firm +39 architects announced this February, merger and acquisition activity in the Australian architecture sector has been subdued in comparison to years gone by.

    2013 was particularly dynamic for international arrangements with some of Australia’s largest and most successful firms like Suters, PTW Architects and Rice Daubney forming relationships of some sort with global firms.  

    At the time, PTW Director John Bilmon said alliances like the one his firm formed with China Construction Design International made it possible to meet cash flow requirements when work is tight as well as pool a broader range of design expertise and specialised knowledge.

    Similarly, former managing director of Rice Daubney, John Daubney said at the time of his merger with USA-based global architecture firm HDR that combining practices provided a “long-term strategy to grow its business, expand its offering to clients and provide greater opportunities for employees”.

    Before that, merger activity amongst Australian firms was more common, particularly in the post GFC climate.

    Riddel Architecture and Conrad Gargett Architecture, BVN and Donovan Hill, Rothelowman and White Architecture are just a few mergers that were announced in 2012-2013.

    Common among the messages from all firms at the time of alliance or merger is that these relationships provide a deeper pool of design knowledge and expertise at a time when the profession needs to become more collaborative, lateral, malleable and agile amidst a complex international business environment.

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