Housebuilder in plans to sell one-third of company. Net reservations fall below zero. Persimmon, Bovis and Redrow reveal scale of redundancies

Taylor Wimpey is hatching plans to sell a third of the company to a private equity investor after its failure to secure a £500m rescue package last week.

According to a source close to the talks between the housebuilder and its banks, the private equity option would avert the need to raise £500m through a share placement.

The news came in the same week as it emerged that:

• Home Builders Federation weekly sales figures showed that net housing reservations fell below zero. It is believed to be the first time in the history of HBF data that a negative figure has been returned for new home buyers.

• Major UK housebuilders revealed they had made 6,000 redundancies since January.

According to a source close to the talks between the £4.7bn-turnover Taylor Wimpey and its banks, it is likely that a US private equity investor will take a 30% stake in the company. The group’s US housing turnover is £1.2bn.

The source said: “A private equity investor will want a meaningful share of the business. A figure of 30% gives it an excellent blocking role if future bids appear. It will have seats on the board, and the shares can be offloaded when conditions improve.”

The source added that any deal was “months rather than weeks away” because investors would want to see what happens in the wider market. “There are still several names in the frame who are running the figures through a spreadsheet.” 

Texas Pacific is cash rich and have shown they can write a big cheque in a hurry

Source close to talks

Taylor Wimpey is in danger of breaching its banking covenants when its landbank is written down at the beginning of 2009. It is understood that the relaxation of covenants is dependent on the raising of fresh equity.

Names recently linked to the company include US private investment firm Texas Pacific, and the source did not rule out a swoop. “It is cash rich and has shown it can be nimble and write a big cheque in a hurry.”

Meanwhile, the confidential weekly HBF statistics, which collate sales data from housebuilders across the UK, show that there were more cancellations than reservations over the latest seven-day period.

The number of net reservations per site per week was –0.01, having fallen from 0.16 and 0.19 in the previous two weeks.

The HBF declined to comment on the statistics.

The week also saw gloomy trading updates from four large housebuilders and the total number of job losses in the sector swell to 6,000 this year.

• Persimmon announced it would make 2,000 redundancies following a fall of 31% in reservations to 5,501 in the first six months of the year.

The housebuilder said forward sales had fallen 30% to £650m for the six months to 30 June.

I’m just hanging on in there just now. Nobody’s found me to fire me yet.

Senior source, Taylor Wimpey

• Bovis is cutting 400 jobs from its 930 staff after it revealed a 35% fall in sales to 1,482 homes in the six months to 30 June. Bovis said the cuts and reorganisation would cost £2m but reduce costs by 20%.

• Redrow is consulting its 1,372 workers about 550 redundancies.

Reservations at the company fell 55% in the six months to 30 June 2008, while cancellations increased to 30% compared with 18% for the same period a year earlier. Sales for the full financial year fell 18% to 3,925.

Amid the mass redundancies, it has emerged that some recruiters have taken advantage of the glut of candidates on the market. According to a senior source at a large housebuilder and a recruitment consultant, separate recruiters have charged upwards of £2,000 to register with their agency.

Meanwhile, one office worker at a Kier Residential office in Lincoln said redundancies may be higher than officially claimed. She said: “Pretty much everybody across the five companies in Kier is going – hundreds of people. We’re all going or being sent on gardening leave.”

Kier has publicly said it is making 300 redundancies.

A senior source at Taylor Wimpey said: “I’m just hanging on in there just now. Nobody’s found me to fire me yet, but all we’ve got right now really is gallows humour. If I could shift a house for £20 just now I would be tempted – you could just about buy the whole company for that anyway.”

• Northern flats developer City Lofts has been taken into administration, becoming the most high-profile developer to fall victim to the credit crunch.

See graphic attached below.

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