Cheshire fit-out firm woos turnaround specialists as it races to bolster balance sheet

Retail fit-out specialist Styles & Wood has begun crunch talks with investors to raise fresh cash for its balance sheet.

The company, which has a turnover of £316m, announced on 24 March that it was considering a rights issue or private equity sale to strengthen its financial position.

Since that announcement, the company has held meetings with a string of potential investors, which are understood to include private equity turnaround specialists Rutland Partners, HIG Capital and Alchemy.

One private equity source close to the talks said the banks made it clear to Styles & Wood’s management that they wanted a deal done “in a matter of weeks”.

Another source said: “It was obvious from what Ivan McKeever, the chief executive, and Graham Clark, the finance director, said that they were dealing with a ticking clock and the company was looking at all options including a private equity stake or outright takeover.”

The Altrincham-based company’s share price has plunged from 113p to 7p over the past 12 months amid concerns over its financial health. Its last stated debt position was £22.4m on 30 June 2008; it was £19.5m a year earlier.

The company is dealing with a ticking clock and looking at all options

Source close to talks

A spokesperson for Styles & Wood said the company had nothing to add to its statement of 24 March. At that time it said its bank was supportive of the company and that its order book was in line with management expectations at £77.4m.

The company has suffered in the recession owing to its exposure to the flagging retail market. Last year it issued two profit warnings and at its half-year results in August said: “The business has seen its customers deferring scheduled property spend and demanding greater value from the supply chain while maintaining quality expectations.”

The company has not reported its 2008 results despite originally being scheduled to do so on 12 March. The company said an announcement would be made “some time in May”.

Last year, the company’s then-chairman, Gerard Quiligotti, and chief executive, Neil Davies, made an £81m bid to take Styles & Wood private. This failed, and the two left the company as a result.