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Seddon chief: independence provides ‘greater focus and drive’

The division of Seddon Group has made the new construction and homes business stronger and more competitive, according to its chief executive.

In April 2013, the 115-year-old family-owned firm announced it would divide into three new businesses, each owned and led by a branch of the Seddon family.

Speaking to Construction News, Seddon Solutions chief executive Jonathan Seddon said the separation had given each of the new businesses “professional freedom, greater focus and drive”.

Seddon Solutions accounted for around 60 per cent of the £300m-annual turnover group, and expects an annual turnover of £200m as an independent company with 750 employees.

He said: “We have clear objectives and clear values, [which] were watered down as part of a larger entity. Now we have a more defined message and the overlap is not there.”

Last November, it finalised the separation into Seddon Solutions (known as Seddon), comprising the construction, homes and development business; Seddon Property Services, which has rebranded as Novus Property Solutions; and Seddon Engineering.

Mr Seddon said the newly independent Seddon’s core sectors and regions “will not change for the next 18 months” with the focus remaining on social housing, care homes and education in the Midlands, North-west and South-west.

However, he added that there was a growing demand from clients for it to work in the East of England and that the firm would do more work in the commercial and industrial sectors as those markets recover.

At the end of 2013, the forward order book for construction, homes and developments stood at £235m – 15 to 20 per cent ahead of where it was at the end of 2012.

Mr Seddon insisted there had been no conflict within the family before the separation, but acknowledged that they are now competitors in some sectors. Refurbishment and maintenance is a core market for Seddon, as well as the core of Novus’s business.

“You don’t work together for 115 years and then just cut all ties,” he said. “With Novus we are great friends, but we will compete with them.

“We have agreements in place between the families and businesses so if customers are intending to work with what was Seddon Property Services, we would pass them to the right team [at Novus].”

Mr Seddon said there were no redundancies as a result of the separation of the businesses.

Seddon Engineering will continue to service Seddon’s vehicles indefinitely, as the businesses are not in competition.

In 2013, Seddon landed a number of framework deals with partners including the Homes and Communities Agency, Sanctuary Housing Association in the Midlands and several councils across the Midlands and North-west.

Mr Seddon admitted he is concerned about rising build cost inflation in 2014 with “a very tight tendered marketplace where it remains difficult to make any margin”.

But he added that the firm negotiates around 70 per cent of its contracts through more than 50 framework agreements, which allows it to manage the impact of rising costs.

More worrying for the business is a shortage of materials, with some contractors beginning to hoard bricks and blocks, he said.

However, Mr Seddon was optimistic about the year ahead for his company. “There is a clear Seddon brand [now] and independence allows us to exploit that to win work.”

Mr Seddon said the decision to separate the businesses “came as a shock to a lot of the staff”, but the family had been considering the possibility for more than 10 years ahead of the transition of the business from the third generation to the fourth generation of the family.

Seddon is owned by the family of third-generation member and former group director Christopher Seddon, and is led by his son, Jonathan.

In the New Year Honours list Christopher Seddon was awarded an MBE for services to apprenticeships and the community in the North-west through the Seddon Charitable Trust.

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