The approach was timed by Goodall to come days before McAlpine’s interim results on Thursday. But in a bizarre turn of events, 36-year-old Goodall is now believed to have taken a family holiday in Corfu.
The McAlpine board was in talks at the time of Building going to press. Goodall, whose company, Brunswick Developments, owns Brighton Marina, bought a 3% stake in the housebuilder and contractor from Phillips & Drew Fund Management last week before launching the 260p-a-share offer on Tuesday.
One of the most powerful construction investors, PDFM has now reduced its stake in McAlpine from 23% to 12% in three months.
PDFM is believed to be supporting Goodall’s bid, as it did his June offer of 215p a share. This valued the company at £243m, but was rejected because McAlpine believed that it undervalued the business.
Analyst Mark Hake of Merrill Lynch said: “I don’t think 260p is a level at which either the management or the shareholders would like to see the group taken out, but it is interesting that McAlpine has not dismissed him outright.”
The McAlpine board is understood to be irritated by the fact that, as with his first approach, Goodall has not made a direct bid for the company but has, in McAlpine’s words, “indicated a possible interest”. One analyst said: “Goodall seems to be messing about. I think he should either go for it or pull out.”
Eyebrows have also been raised by Goodall’s decision to take a fortnight’s holiday this week and next. A source close to McAlpine said: “It doesn’t seem to show he is very serious.”
Goodall, however, has secured financial backing from the Royal Bank of Scotland and is advised by KPMG. The bank’s support is conditional on a full acceptance by the McAlpine board, so it is not thought that Goodall will launch a hostile bid.
If he does succeed in buying the company, he is likely to sell its contracting arm and turn the company into a pure housebuilder. Although one senior City source commented: “Selling a contracting business is not an easy thing to do.”
Goodall’s move has also kick-started speculation that other housebuilders may start a bidding war for McAlpine. Names touted include Centex, Taylor Woodrow and Beazer Group. McAlpine was expected to announce interim profit up 15% to £16m yesterday. The company’s shares were up 17p to 253.5p at the end of Tuesday.