The new chief executive of housebuilder Bryant has hinted that he would be happy to take a back seat in a merged company if he could strike the right deal.
Peter Long, who has been in his post for three months, said he was keen to link up with a commercial partner, although he added that one merger might not be enough.
He said: “We need to be bigger for the stock market and may have to do it [merge] twice over.”
Long said egos would not be allowed to put the brakes on a merger. “The most important thing for me is shareholder value, so we wouldn’t allow personalities to get in the way of that – and that includes myself,” he said.
Merger talks between Bryant and Alfred McAlpine broke down earlier this year, partly because of uncertainty over who would run the new business.
Analysts said Long’s determination to find a partner could spark long-awaited consolidation in the sector. The City has long complained that housebuilders’ bosses are too reluctant to relinquish boardroom power.
Long made his comments at Bryant’s results meeting, where he reported a 35% rise in pre-tax profit to £90.3m for the year to 31 May. This was on turnover up from £638m to £705m. Operating margins rose from 13.7% to 15.8%.
We need to be bigger for the stock market and may have to do it [merge] twice over
Peter Long, Chief Executive, Bryant
Despite the upbeat results, Long warned that the market in the South-east was slowing down. “We are calling the top of the market,” he said.
He went on to outline Bryant’s business strategy for the new conditions.
It is retrenching in the South-east after paying too much for land during the early 1990s. The company expects to save £1m a year by merging its two South-east arms with the loss of 20 jobs.
Bryant has also written off £4.2m of greenfield land held under option during the year to May, as new planning guidelines mean that it no longer expects to be able to develop it.
However, the company is expanding and rebranding its Options division. This offers housebuyers add-on services such as interior design, landscaping and home security. The division’s new name is to be Bryant Design.
Long also said this week that he was planning to boost the firm’s stock market standing by buying back and cancelling up to 10% of its shares. They have been 20% down on the sector’s average price over the past 12 months.
At the close of trading on Tuesday, Bryant’s share price stood at 122p, below its net asset value of 124p a share.