Struggle north of the border hots up with in-house buyout team set to increase offer in takeover struggle with Miller.
A battle for control of Scottish housebuilder Cala was expected to escalate this week as the management team bidding to buy the company prepared to raise its offer.

The team, led by chairman Geoff Ball, was set to increase its 165p a share offer late this week to top the 175p a share offered by rival group Miller.

Hostilities between the bidders escalated on Monday, with 19 Cala divisional directors sending a letter to Miller chairman James Miller to say his company’s bid was unwelcome.

The letter, which was signed by development directors, finance directors, land directors and technical directors at Cala subsidiaries in Scotland, the Midlands and the South, backed the in-house bid. It said: “We would like you and your board to be aware that we do not welcome the bid by Miller for Cala.

“We are strongly behind the proposed bid by Dotterel [the in-house bid] for Cala; we are all committed to Cala’s future as an independent company; we are all committed to investing in Dotterel as a genuine employee-owned company; our desire is to work for an independent Cala.” None of the directors who signed the letter was in Ball’s buyout team.

Privately owned Miller’s chief executive, Keith Miller, said the Cala management team was highly regarded by Miller, and that if it bought the company he would want as many of them to stay as possible.

But Ball said the 10 managers leading the buyout would almost certainly leave: “We’ve made it clear we would not want to be part of a Miller-run organisation, and there’s a great hostility among the rest of our staff.” Keith Miller declined to say whether he would lift his company’s bid if Ball’s team raised its offer. He said his firm had access to up to £250m for acquisitions, and he saw Cala as an ideal purchase to add to his firm’s presence in the South and in executive housing.

But Ball said he could not understand why Miller wanted to expand its housing business when most major construction businesses have withdrawn from contracting and housing in recent years.

He said: “Miller is spread across a lot of sectors. Bovis, Tarmac, Balfour Beatty have all pulled out of housing, and we don’t think our culture would mix with Miller’s.” However, Miller’s offer has the backing of Cala non-executive directors. They have the right to withdraw this backing if a higher offer is made.

Ball denied that his first bid would not have provided good value for money for shareholders, even though the management team is now set to raise the offer.

“All that will happen is that we will take longer to make any money out of it,” he said.