Contractor denies it is vulnerable as chief executive insists his management team is the best for the job.

Jarvis reacted bullishly this week to suggestions that it is vulnerable to takeover.

Reporting flat pre-tax profit of £31.6m for the year to 31 March, chief executive Paris Moayedi and finance director Henry Lafferty defended the company’s record.

Moayedi said: “You may say people are making bids for the company, but I would say you would find it hard to make a business case for any other business against the current management. We are the envy of most of our competitors in terms of return on turnover and reliance on high-technology.”

Rumours have been circulating that a number of firms are eyeing Jarvis because its share price is flagging. On Tuesday, it stood at 160.5p – one-fifth of its 787.5p peak in June 1998.

Lafferty, who steps down as finance director this month to take over responsibility for Jarvis’ projects business and private finance initiative portfolio, said: “Which company could look at our business and say we can improve your cash generation or your return on turnover?”

Turnover for Jarvis Group was up 8% at £669.1m for the year. The group’s order book doubled to £2.2bn.

Lafferty said the group was investigating new sectors, including local authority and Ministry of Defence work. He said: “We are interested in smaller projects that are replicable. And we interested in working with people who are regular procurers.” Jarvis has also set up a joint venture – Odyssey Property Services – with investment bank Warburg to bid for corporate PFI work.

Moayedi said that relations with Railtrack, Jarvis’ biggest client, were good, despite a contract dispute last year. “In the past year, all of the contracts we have won with Railtrack have been open-book alliances,” he said.

Jarvis recently appointed Bill Colvin, formerly of nursing home company NHP, to take over as finance director. City sources have speculated that Colvin, who assisted in the hunt for a buyer for NHP, may have been brought in to find potential suitors for Jarvis.

Buyout team to acquire fit-out arm

Building has learned that Jarvis is in talks to sell its £30m-turnover shop fit-out business to a management buyout team. Director Henry Lafferty said: “Jarvis Newman is the last vestige of traditional contracting within Jarvis. It is a good business but it doesn’t fit anymore.”