International consultants Sedgwick Noble Lowndes (SNL) and William M. Mercer are set to merge, following the announcement by Mercer's US parent, insurance and investment group Marsh & McClennan, that it is to buy the Sedgwick Group in a £1.25bn ($2bn) deal.

For the moment no firm plans are being made for the integration of the two companies until official clearance of the buy-out has been obtained.

A spokesperson for Sedgwick, Byron West, says: Informal contacts are taking place at a number of levels, but both sides are being careful not to exchange any sensitive competitive information, before the deal is cut and dry."

West expects a conclusion around the end of October, when he says a group of task forces will be implement-ed to examine the effects of the merger.

However, Anthony Ashton, partner at Bacon & Woodrow, does not believe the merger will change the consultancy landscape significantly in the UK. With Mercer already one of the biggest players in the market and already benefitting from the parentage of Marsh & McClennan in terms of financial provision for expansion and acquisitions, Ashton argues that while the new amalgamation will be bigger, it won't necessarily be much stronger.

The bid is under scrutiny by regulatory bodies such as the Department of Trade and Industry and the Monopolies and Mergers Commission in the UK, as well as in the US and Europe."