Alfred McAlpine effectively put itself up for sale this week when it announced that it intended to sell its PFI portfolio and troubled slate quarries, and demerge the rest of the business

The contractor, which has a £1.1bn turnover, said it was embarking on the plan to “maximise shareholder value”. The business will be broken up into two parts: support services, including facilities management; and infrastructure, including building and civil engineering.

Senior industry sources say McAlpine is now in a vulnerable position and is likely to become a takeover target. One analyst said: “This is the right thing to do, but it has been forced on the firm, which puts it in a position of weakness.”

The PFI portfolio is likely to attract suitors, from both trade and private equity. Balfour Beatty and Morgan Sindall are understood to be interested in looking at the facilities management arm, described as “a good business”, but it is thought that the construction division would be more difficult to sell.

This is the right thing to do, but it has been forced upon the firm

City analyst

Galliford Try and private equity firm 3i are also in the frame. As Building went to press on Wednesday, McAlpine’s shares had risen 2% to 504p since the announcement last Thursday.

It has been a difficult year for Alfred McAlpine. Dominic Lavalle, the finance director resigned in April after an investigation into losses in the slate division, which cost the group £56m before tax and led police to open a fraud inquiry.