UK press speculates on sale of Shepherd Construction to rival contractor

Shepherd Group, the northern English contractor whose Portakabins have been a fixture on UK building sites over 50 years, is rumoured to be considering selling off most of its construction division.  

Reports in the British trade press suggest that the company, which employs 3,200 staff across three divisions, is in talks with Wates, another UK contractor, over the sale of Shepherd Construction, Shepherd Engineering Services and Shepherd FM, all of which fall within the group’s Built Environment Division.  

It is understood that the other two divisions, Portakabin and Shepherd Group Engineering, are not part of the discussions. 

Shepherd described the rumours as "speculation" and Wates said: "As you would expect, we talk to people in the industry about different things all the time." 

A number of senior managers have recently left Shepherd Construction, including Phil Greer, the managing director; Mark Tant, the managing director of the southern region; Christian Bailey, the business development manager; Peter Bates, the business director; and Andrew Wilson, the design director.  

Both Tant and Bailey left to join Wates: Tant is now managing director of the Surrey-based contractor’s residential arm and Bailey joins its business development team.  

Shepherd Group launched a review of its operations in December after a 12% drop in pre-tax profit for the year to June 2014. The firm said the results were affected by "a number of challenging contracts that have now reached practical completion and so the issues affecting performance have been stemmed". 

David Williams, the group chairman, said in December: "We are currently reviewing our businesses, assessing their strengths and weaknesses in relation to their markets, sector norms and peer performances to ensure that we continue to bring a sharper focus to those areas of the group where the most significant future investment will be made." 

"In addition, the Group Board has acted swiftly to restructure and reorganise Shepherd Construction to address the issues which cause severe and reoccurring adverse impacts on Group performance." 

Both Wates and Shepherd are family owned businesses, and both were started in the 1890s. 

Photograph: A Shepherd Portakabin is craned into position. This part of the business is not thought to be part of the disposal talks (Portakabin)

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