BALFOUR Beatty has secured an £820m deal to sell the US business at the heart of its merger tussle with rival Carillion.

The sale of professional services firm Parsons Brinckerhoff to WSP Global comes five years after Balfour bought it for £380m.

Last month, Balfour's insistence the disposal of Parsons went ahead helped to kill off Carillion's hopes of securing a £3bn merger deal.

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Balfour initially held talks with its rival, but walked away due to Carillion's "wholly unexpected decision" to insist Parsons was included in the merger.

Up to £200m of the proceeds from the sale will go to shareholders, with another £85m helping to reduce Balfour's pension fund deficit.

Parsons offers services including planning and construction management.

The group added it was now focused on restoring the fortunes of its UK construction division, which has been at the centre of previous profit warnings.

Balfour has an engineering division in Newcastle, with Parsons occupying bases in Newcastle and Middlesbrough.