Contractors' chief executives both scale back roles by becoming chairmen of the companies.
Contractors Alfred McAlpine and Kier have announced the appointments of chief executives, as two of the industry’s key players scale back their roles.

Oliver Whitehead, chief executive of Alfred McAlpine, will become chairman on 10 August, to be succeeded by executive director Ian Grice.

Kier has separated the roles of chief executive and chairman, both held by Colin Busby. Busby will be chairman as of May, and board member John Dodds will take over as chief executive.

The McAlpine move contradicts recommendations made in the Higgs report into corporate governance. Higgs said that a chief executive should not become chairman of the same company, as it could affect their independence.

Grice said: “We think it’s the right move for Alfred McAlpine. We’re working on a phased handover – evolution not revolution.”

Kier has adhered to another Higgs recommendation by splitting the positions of chief executive and chairman. Busby said the move was needed because of the size of the company. He said: “In order to meet the growing needs of the business we have decided to separate my role of chairman and chief executive.”

Kier added that board member Martin Scarth and David Homer would retire in May and June respectively.

The McAlpine board changes were announced in the company’s annual results for the 12 months to

31 December. Pre-tax profit rose 30% to £30.2m on 2001. Turnover was up from £554m in 2001 to £768m.

McAlpine also confirmed that it might be interested in the roads and facilities management arms of support services group Amey, if they are put up for sale. Grice said: “If the highways business was for sale, like any other similar business, we would have a look at it. In highways, at the moment, we do not make a good enough margin. We make 2% and we want 5-6%.”

The company has between £80m and £85m in cash, which Grice said could be used for acquisitions.

Kier posted a turnover of £723.6m for the six months to 31 December, up 4.5% on the same period in 2001. Pre-tax profit rose from £9.4m to £11.8m.

The City was impressed by Kier’s results. In a briefing note, Teather & Greenwood building analyst David Taylor issued a “buy” recommendation to potential investors.

The note said: “Kier has produced excellent interims, with pre-tax profit up 25.5%.”