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Company Spotlight: Morris

FINANCE

THE ONGOING consolidation in the house building industry that has seen firms gobble up their peers and smaller rivals means that half of the UK's new housing is built by just a dozen firms.

All of these house builders are public limited companies and, out of the top 20 house builders, only three - Miller, Morris and Gladedale - are privately-owned.

Morris builds around 1,000 units a year, a total that would be the equal of a Plc such as Prowting, the West Country firm that was snapped up last year by Westbury.

The company was familyowned and turning over just £2 million a year in 1988, when Riordan Industries swooped for the business. It was subsequently sold to a management buyout two years later.

In 1998, another MBO lead by current managing director Mike Gaskell and backed by two venture capitalists 3i and Quayle Monroe took control.

At the turn of the Millennium, Morris stepped up the pace and took advantage of the disintegration of Allen to buy the mini-conglomerate's housing arm for £24 million.

This has been the catalyst for change with turnover expected to reach £102 million in 2003 and lift pre-tax profits from the £9.5 million posted in 2002 to around £16 million as Morris expands into the Midlands.

The firm was ploughing a lonely furrow as a privatelyowned pure house builder - Miller is also a developer and contractor - until the emergence of Gladedale, and this cannot have gone unnoticed by the land-hungry Plcs.