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Housebuilder Countryside looks to double profits within five years

Housebuilder Countryside is looking to possible acquisitions to double its profits over the next five years.

The owner of the Essex-based volume housebuilder, US private equity firm Oaktree Capital Management, merged Countryside with luxury housebuilder Millgate Developments this week. Countryside took operational control of the business immediately.

Countryside executive chairman Ian Sutcliffe told Construction News the group’s priority was to grow. “If the right opportunity comes along or the right business with the right price presents itself, then absolutely we would have a look.”

Mr Sutcliffe said Millgate Developments was a “perfect strategic fit”, allowing Countryside to access areas, including South Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Surrey, that are outside its current areas of activity around London.

Countryside Properties builds private homes, affordable homes, commercial and mixed-use properties. Mr Sutcliffe said he hoped the merger with Millgate would allow the sale of private homes to contribute 60 per cent of the group’s turnover within five years, from around 50 per cent now.

In its most recent results, Countryside reported a total operating profit of £14.2m for the year ended 30 September 2012, compared with £19.9m for the same period in 2011.

Mr Sutcliffe said he expected Countryside’s headcount to increase, with no job losses as a result of the merger, and with Millgate Developments as a functioning division within the Countryside group.

Oaktree Capital Management bought Countryside from Lloyds Banking Group in February 2013. Mr Sutcliffe joined as executive chairman in September the same year.

He said: “We’re in a fantastic position with Oaktree behind us, [as well as having] the landbank we’ve got. So, where there are opportunities to buy land or to potentially acquire other businesses, then we would certainly look.

“The real benefit we’ve got is we don’t have to do it, but if the opportunity was right, [we are] not ruling it out.”

Mr Sutcliffe said while Help to Buy had been a boost to the housing market, it had not and would not directly affect the company. Most of Countryside and Millgate Development’s properties are too expensive to qualify for the scheme.

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