Tony Pidgley drops organic growth strategy and announces that he is looking to join consolidation race
Berkeley managing director Tony Pidgley last week surprised City analysts by telling them he was considering buying rival firms.

Previously, he had declared publicly that his company was avoiding the industry's move to consolidation through acquisition, and had prided himself on buying land rather than other firms.

Pidgley made his remarks last Friday, after the firm had posted its interim results. Chairman Roger Lewis told Building: "We are obviously opportunistic, to the extent that if the right opportunity arose, we would look at it."

One analyst said the firm could have a war chest of up to £300m to spend on acquisitions. He added that rivals in the regeneration sector such as Crest Nicholson, Countryside or private firms such as Galliard Homes were the most likely targets for Berkeley, should it choose to make a purchase.

The analyst said: "They are likely to have a lot of spare cash by the end of the financial year. By going into debt again they could quite easily summon up £300m for a bid."

He added that the acquisition route was one of two options for the firm, which is exposed to the London and South-east housing market. He said: "The other option is for them to sit on their hands and build up cash just in case the market does drop significantly in those regions."

Berkeley's positive cash position was achieved by the sale of its share in the Gunwharf Quays development in Portsmouth, which realised £85m.

Crest Nicholson, Countryside or private firms such as Galliard Homes are the most likely targets

City analyst

The firm's pre-tax profit increased 3.5% to £117m for the six months to 31 October 2003. Turnover rose 3% to £575.8m.

In a statement issued with the results, Pidgley said Berkeley had coped well with a changing market.