Housebuilder begins drive to become a top 10 firm within seven years by acquiring Sharman Group
The housebuilding arm of construction group David McLean has bought Devon firm Sharman Group for £20m.

The deal, due to be announced today, is part of the homes division's drive to become a top 10 UK housebuilder by 2011. In the short term the acquisition will add more than 500 units in planning and development to David McLean's portfolio of 1600.

Further acquisitions are planned. Homes division managing director Frank Reil said: "It is our intention to ensure the David McLean brand and product is sold throughout the UK. This will be achieved by further acquisitions of other independent housing developers, particularly in the Midlands and Yorkshire regions, together with organic growth."

The primary aim of the Sharman deal is to boost David McLean's landbank but it also aims to increase the number of Sharman homes completed by 50% in the next 12 months. Last year it built 100 homes and now has eight developments in Cornwall and Devon.

David McLean hopes to make another housebuilder acquisition by the end of the year. It has up to about £60m to spend on any single deal. Last year it is understood to have tried to buy Henry Boot Homes but was edged out by Wilson Bowden in a £47.8m deal.

The Sharman deal has been in the pipeline since last April, when the firm was first put up for sale.

n Housebuilder Wimpey this week announced a pre-tax profit of £378m for 2003, about £10m ahead of top-end market expectations.

We will ensure the David McLean brand is sold throughout the UK

Frank Reil, managing director

This was 30% up on 2002, and came off a turnover of nearly £2.9bn. Wimpey surprised the market by increasing its dividend payment 35% to 12.25p.

Finance director Andrew Carr-Locke said that the large increase signalled the company's confidence in the business.

Carr-Locke said Wimpey intends to expand Laing Homes, the upmarket housebuilder it bought for £297m at the end of 2002, once it had reduced overheads in the division by £12m. It made about 50% of the savings last year.

Laing operates mainly out of the South-east and the Midlands.