Report: 3i set to acquire stake in Norman Foster’s architecture firm

The listed private equity firm is reportedly in talks with Foster & Partners, the architects behind Wembley Stadium and the Beijing Airport, in a deal that could value the company at up to £500m.

London-based private equity firm 3i is in exclusive talks to acquire a stake in Foster & Partners, the influential architecture firm run by Sir Norman Foster, according to an article in The Mail on Sunday. The paper notes that the company is valued at up to £500 million ($1 billion; €770 million) and any deal could be announced this week.

In January, Foster & Partners hired Catalyst Corporate Finance to seek investors to help fund the business’ expansion. The company currently has offices in London, Beijing, Dubai, Istanbul and Kuala Lumpur. Some of its most notable projects in its hometown of London include the new Wembley Stadium, the Millennium Bridge and the “Gherkin” office tower. Abroad, the firm has also designed the new airport in Beijing and the renovated Reichstag parliament building in Berlin, among many others. It is also currently working on one of the office towers that will form part of the World Trade Center complex in New York City. According to news reports, Foster Group International, the holding company for the architecture firm, generated revenues of approximately £45 million in fiscal 2005.

The 71-year-old Foster, who was knighted in 1990, received the architectural world’s highest honor, the Pritzker Prize, in 1999. He has reportedly agreed to stay with Foster & Partners following a transaction.

In March, 3i announced that it was planning to return £800 million to shareholders later this year, after reporting increased investment and strong returns for its current financial year. In a pre-close update ahead of the end of its financial year on March 31, 3i chief executive Philip Yea said the company had invested £1.6 billion in the first eleven months of its financial year, and total investment would be up by 35 percent on the previous year.