Crest chief executive tight-lipped about future of Bristol subsidiary Pearce but City says deal is in the offing.
Fast-growing construction firm YJL has made a bid for Crest Nicholson's contracting subsidiary, Pearce Group.

Bids for the £225m-turnover business close on Monday and YJL, itself a subsidiary of listed investment group Montpellier, is understood to have tabled its bid late this week.

YJL managing director Roger Feast described Pearce as a "good business" although he refused to say whether he had made an offer to Crest Nicholson for it.

But a City source said YJL had been looking at Bristol-based Pearce for some time. He said: "It's a good fit for YJL. It works in the same sectors but with different clients. YJL is understandably very keen."

Don Ross, managing director of Pearce, and Jim Ritchie, its commercial director, are said to be leading a management buyout bid. They were not available for comment.

Pearce has steadily improved its performance in recent years and has increased the amount of work it does for outside clients. It made a pre-tax profit of £1.4m for the year to 31 October 2001, compared with £800,000 the year before. Turnover increased from £210m to £225m. Its external order book stood at £210m earlier this year, up from £153m at the same time in 2001.

It’s a good fit for YJL. It works in the same sectors but with different clients

City source

Crest Nicholson chief executive John Calcutt refused to comment on reports that Pearce was up for sale or that bidding closes on Monday, but it is well known in the City that Calcutt wants to sell Pearce.

One analyst said: "Crest is trying to sell it for sure. It is not a core activity and doesn't contribute much, although it is performing better these days and will attract a number of bids."

Pearce operates throughout the south of England and has contracting, construction management, fit-out and design arms. The group focuses on the leisure and retail markets and has 750 workers in offices in Bristol, Devon and Worcestershire.

The contracting arm, CH Pearce, was established in 1922.