McAlpine weighs share buyback

ALFRED MCALPINE, the construction group, is considering a share buyback and bolt-on acquisitions following yesterday's sale of two US businesses to rival Hanson for $122.5m (pounds 73m).

Oliver Whitehead, the chief executive of McAlpine, said that, following the disposal of material producer Becker Minerals and civil engineering contractor Blythe Construction, "share buybacks are on the agenda".

He added that the sales complete McAlpine's exit from non-core US activities and would enable the group to strengthen its core UK construction and housebuilding divisions through small acquisitions.

The two businesses, put up for sale more than two years ago, had a turnover of pounds 98.8m and operating profits of pounds 2.9m.

Under the terms of the deal, Hanson, the UK's second largest building materials producer, will pay McAlpine $97.5m in cash for Becker and Blythe and take on $20m debt and $5m for a separate competition agreement.

The company, the last remnant of Lord Hanson's 1980s conglomerate, will then retain Becker and sell off Blythe to the French giant Suez Lyonnaise des Eaux for $40m, leaving it with a net payment of $82.5m. The purchase of Becker, a supplier of sand and gravel for road building, will strengthen Hanson's position as the third-largest aggregates producer in the US.

Shares in McAlpine soared 13 per cent to 133.5p, while Hanson was up 2p to 375p.

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