Contractor Taylor Woodrow is to look outside its business for a new chief executive after it announced that Iain Napier was to step down as head of the firm.

Napier will retire next spring to take up the position of non-executive chairman of Imperial Tobacco Group, where he is joint vice chairman.

Norman Askew, Taylor Woodrow chairman, praised Napier's performance in the four years he has been chief executive.

He said: "Since Iain joined as chief executive in February 2002, he has been responsible for steering Taylor Woodrow successfully through a period of significant change and considerable growth, establishing the group's position as one of the UK's leading homebuilders with a portfolio of successful homes businesses in the UK, North America and Spain.

"Working within a generous timeframe, the board has commenced its search for a successor, which will cover internal and external candidates."

Napier was formerly chief executive of Bass Brewers and an executive director of Six Continents, later joining the executive management committee of Interbrew.

The board will look at internal and external candidates

Norman Askew, chairman

Napier recently told the firm's annual meeting that results for the year would be in line with expectations, despite a slowdown in its North American markets.

Napier said he expected more site openings towards the second half of the financial year.

Profit at Taylor Woodrow's UK housing business fell by almost 18% to £108m in the six months to 30 June; completions dropped 17% to 3194.