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Miller Group returns to profit under private equity giant Blackstone

Miller Group returned to profit in the first half of 2012 despite a loss in its construction division.

Its net debt has also been reduced from £706.6 million at the start of the year to £217m by 30 June 2012. 

It follows an £160m refinancing deal that handed more than 55 per cent of the family firm to outside investors, led by GSO Capital Partners – a subsidiary of US private equity giant Blackstone.

Miller Group’s profit before tax for the half year was £0.4m, compared with a £52.9m loss for the same period last year. Revenue was up 7 per cent to £262.5m (2011: £244.9m).

Construction revenue was £113.1m (2011: £115.6m) with a loss of £0.8m, compared with £1.4m. The order book rose 34 per cent to £805m.

The firm said this loss “mainly reflects the significant business development expenditure which has been incurred in targeting new markets”. 

It saw a reduced order intake in the second half of 2011, which picked up in 2012.

Group chief executive Keith Miller – who told CN in March that he has no plans to step back from the firm – said:  “I am pleased to report that the group has delivered a strong performance during the first half of 2012 and returned to profit.

“Trading has remained steady; both turnover and total housing volumes are at the same level as last year against the backdrop of challenging market conditions.”

In housing, revenue was flat at £124.8m (20-11:124.3m), while operating prfot was £4.4m (2011: £35.2m loss). There were 820 completions, flat on last time, with a consented land bank of 4,647.

Developments saw revenue almost double to £31.4m (2011:£16.9m) as operating profit rose from £4.3m to £6m. Mining revenues were £14.8m (2011:£15.2m) with profit of £4.2m (£3.6m).

Mr Miller added: “In March of this year, we secured a strong investor group led by GSO.

“This enables us, with our well diversified business, to take advantage of opportunities in the UK housing, property and construction markets.”

The firm said it has net assets of £228.7m, compared with £150m of liabilities last time. Cash inflow from operating activities was £31.7m, compared with a £6.3m outflow. It also has a five-year committed bank facility in place.

The results included two months trading under the historic shareholder and lender structure and four months trading under the new strengthened capital structure.

The investor group is also made up of chief executive Mr Miller and other group executives, Noble Grossart, Lloyds, Royal Bank of Scotland - which already had a stake in the firm – and National Australia Bank.

Miller’s construction chief executive Chris Webster told CN in June that they will continue to recruit as the biggest contractors shrink and realign their UK businesses.

The GSO restructuring included:

  • The conversion of £215.6m of the group’s existing debt to ordinary shares;
  • The waiver of £48.9m of group debt and transfer to distributable reserves;
  • New group lending facilities being made available for the period through to February 2017;
  • The injection of £160m by a consortium of investors led by GSO Capital Partners in exchange for new equity shares; and
  • The control of certain development assets with a book value of £78m and equivalent debt being assumed by the group’s bankers resulting in the continuing risks and rewards of ownership of these assets no longer resting with the group.

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