Pret owner weighs Miller Homes takeover

(c) Sky News 2017: <a href="http://news.sky.com/story/pret-owner-weighs-miller-homes-takeover-10838209">Pret owner weighs Miller Homes takeover</a>
 

The owner of Pret (Shenzhen: 002324.SZ - news) a Manger is among a pack of suitors circling Miller Homes, one of the housebuilders which ended up in the ownership of Britain's state-backed banks after the 2008 financial crisis.

Sky News has learnt that Bridgepoint, the private equity firm, has hired bankers at Moelis to explore a bid for Miller that could value it ‎at well over £800m.

Bridgepoint, which is expected to float Pret in New York in the next couple of years, has shown a keen interest in the UK housebuilding sector since an offer for McCarthy & Stone (Frankfurt: MCM.F - news) was rebuffed in 2015.

Sources close to Miller Group, the parent company, said there was no certainty that Bridgepoint would make a formal offer for it, which is controlled by a division of Blackstone (NYSE: BX - news) , the investment giant.

Lloyds Banking Group, which is expected to exit partial state ownership in the next few weeks, retains a small minority stake in Miller, while Coller Capital, another investment firm, owns just over 20%.

Bankers at Rothschild are expected to begin a process shortly of contacting a small number of private equity firms and hedge funds to gauge their interest in bidding for Miller‎.

The decision to embark on ‎a new sale process comes just weeks after Chris Endsor, Miller's chief executive, declared that 2016 had been "an outstanding year" for the company.

Revenue was up 13% on 2015 at £565m, with operating profit 31% higher at £103m.

Miller, which focuses on the regions outside London, said the ‎vote in favour of the UK leaving the European Union had had "no discernible impact on the business".

"The key factors to a sustainable housing market - low interest rates, improved and discipline mortgage lending, high employment - remain in place with consumer confidence levels increasing following the immediate reaction to the EU referendum decision," the company said.

"In addition to this, the housing industry continues to benefit from ongoing demand and supply-side Government support, in the form of Help to Buy and a gradually improving planning system which has seen planning approvals at their highest level since 2008."

Spokesmen for Miller and Bridgepoint both declined to comment on the latest sale process.

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