Japanese construction company buys U.S. firm, looking for others

Obayashi, a Japanese construction company, is buying John S. Clark Co., a general contracting firm based in Winston-Salem, N.C., in an effort to take advantage of the United States’ thriving construction and real-estate environment.

Founded in 1958, John S. Clark employs more than 300 people and provides construction services in 22 states. The company focuses on industrial, commercial, retail, health sciences, and technology design and construction. John S. Clark will keep its name and become a subsidiary of Obayashi. Jim Walker, president of John S. Clark, said Obayashi contacted his company first regarding the sale.

Seiji Aoyagi, the president of Obayashi USA, told the Winston-Salem Journal John S. Clark has a good reputation in North Carolina and neighboring states and the markets it serves resemble Obayashi’s corporate structure and mission. Obayashi officials said principals of John S. Clark would still manage the company and there are no plans to lay off employees.

Obayashi, based in Tokyo, Japan, had revenue of $13 billion in 2004. The company has close to 10,000 employees and projects in 30 countries. It came to the U.S. market in 1967 when it built the Surfrider Hotel in Hawaii.

Kengo Shimada, senior vice president of Obayashi USA, said the company is keeping its eyes open for more U.S. construction companies to purchase. Target areas include the West Coast, Atlanta, Texas and Chicago. Shimada said the company will focus on general contractors and will use market conditions to determine what size companies to buy.