EUROPE – Partners at UK-based consulting firm Watson Wyatt LLP are sad over its plans to merge with its US affiliate, says managing partner Babloo Ramamurthy.

Washington-based Watson Wyatt & Co. said in January it would buy the Reigate firm for $451m in cash and stock.

“Many partners are experiencing sadness about losing our independence,” Ramamurthy wrote in an internal newsletter. “This is a normal reaction considering that we have been a very successful business in Europe for a long time.”

“There are people here who have been partners and owners for many, many years, and thus have strong psychological and cultural ties to the business.”

He said the firm needs to “keep pushing” for more global clients.

“We achieved notable successes in this area in 2003 and the first half of 2004, and we need to increase the momentum to win more such appointments.” He saw this putting Watson Wyatt in a “very strong position against our competitors”.

Meanwhile, Watson president John Haley told staff the merged entity expects to generate “significant cash” rapidly.

He said: “We are very well positioned to consider acquisitions and will continue to pursue them with great energy.”

He noted that staff might be concerned that the merger would make the firm an acquisition candidate.

“While some suggest we might be easier to acquire, I disagree. We may be more attractive — and if we are, that suggests we made a good deal. However, we will become a much larger organization, and the stakes will be raised.”