Stock exchange collapse means contractor will wait until first quarter of 2004 at the earliest before going public.
Privately owned contractor Mansell has decided to postpone its flotation plans until after 2003.

Chief executive Philip Cleaver has said the collapse of the stock market meant that the company would not look to fulfil its objective of going public until the first quarter of 2004 at the earliest.

The FTSE 100 index opened at 3800 points this week, but Cleaver said that it would have to top 4500 before a listing would be a commercial possibility.

He said: “We concluded a year ago that we should list. At the time, the markets were favourable and construction stock was in vogue. With markets where they are at now, there is no prospect of this in the short term.”

The FTSE has fallen heavily in recent months, largely as a result of market uncertainty over the economic repercussions of war with Iraq.

Cleaver added that the company is looking at large acquisitions, but ruled out smaller bolt-on buys in the £5-10m bracket. He said: “If we find some transforming acquisition we’d be interested. It would have to significantly increase the company’s size as a whole or our presence in a particular market.”

Cleaver made the comments after the announcement of the company’s annual results to 31 December. Pre-tax profit on its continuing business was up 11.4% to £10.6m from £9.5m in 2001. Turnover on continuing business rose 9.7% from £466m in 2001 to £511m last year.

Mansell shut its its loss-making maintenance arm in 2002. That meant that four offices in Glasgow, Warrington, Reading and Leeds were closed. Mansell said that the decision has been well received by the City.

In his chairman’s statement, Eric Anstee said: “Not only has the closure improved our ongoing profitability, it has also enabled management to focus on growing the core business.”

Anstee added that there were concerns over deficits in Mansell’s pension funds – an issue that has dogged other large construction firms. In their annual results last month, Carillion, Rok Property Solutions, Travis Perkins and Mowlem announced a combined deficit of £221.9m on defined benefit schemes.

Anstee said: “The board is taking positive action to mitigate the risk.”