The construction market may be slowing, but it appears there has never been a better time to be a regional contractor, writes Michael Glackin.

Last week, Hampshire-based Dean & Dyball became the latest to sell up and cash in after it was snapped up by Balfour Beatty for £45m, as tipped by Building last week.

Based on the group’s current share structure, the deal will boost the bank account of Adrian Dyball, the firm’s chief executive, by about £14.8m before tax. The rest of the Dyball family stand to split about £15.7m, while the company’s shareholding management will share just over £14m.

Most of Dean & Dyball’s management will stay with the group, but the sale will end the Dyball family’s association with the company, which was founded by John Dean and Peter Dyball, Adrian’s father, in 1969.

Andrew McNaughton, Balfour Beatty group managing director, said: “Dean & Dyball recognised that to go to the next step it needed a revised strategy and so it was looking for an organisation that could match its ambitious expansion plans. Adrian sees this as an opportunity to do some other things.”

The race to acquire Dean & Dyball began in earnest last October when the contractor and KPMG, its financial adviser, sat down with what an insider described as “suitable companies” to determine the level of interest in acquiring the group. Dyball had gauged the interest of a number of companies over the past few years, but it was only in the past five months that the decision to sell was taken.

Paul Westbrook, the KPMG director who led the transaction, said: “Price wasn’t the only factor. It was as much about the culture of the company and the future of the staff. Importantly, there was a certainty about Balfour. The Dean & Dyball shareholders were confident that Balfour wanted to complete this deal.”

Price wasn’t the only factor. It was as much about the culture of the company

Paul Westbrook, KPMG

Westbrook declined to name the other companies interested in acquiring the contractor, but it is understood the shortlist included French giant Vinci and Dutch group Heijmans.

By February Balfour was the clear frontrunner to close a sale and entered exclusive talks. The speed of the deal, which was done in a matter of weeks, was partly influenced by the abolition in April of taper relief on capital gains tax, which will introduce a flat charge of 18% on the uplift in the value of business assets.

This latest deal comes hard on the heels of Balfour’s acquisition of Bristol-based contractor Cowlin in August last year for £52m, which followed the purchase of Birse in 2006 and Mansell in 2003.

It also comes just months after French construction giant Bouygues snapped up Warings, another South Coast contractor with a turnover of £100m, for an estimated £30m.

Warings had a “for sale” sign hanging over it for a while and Balfour, like other companies, had cast an eye over it. But its interest never became as serious as entering into discussions. McNaughton said: “We look at all sorts of businesses, but decided Warings didn’t fit in with what we wanted to do.”

He added: “We’re not going around looking at lots of small businesses to take into ours. We’ve gone for ones that fit in with our strategy – that fill gaps in what we currently do.”