Cala plans to double in size as profit soars

Alan Brown of Cala group. Picture: PA
Alan Brown of Cala group. Picture: PA
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Housebuilder Cala, which recently changed hands in a £214 million deal, today unveiled record profits and said it is seeking to double in size in the next four years.

Pre-tax profit soared by 37 per cent to £12.5m on the back of a recovery in the housing market.

The Edinburgh-based firm said an increase in margins helped to overcome a 5 per cent dip in turnover to £240.8m.

It is now targeting growth in a number of property hotspots including Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Greater London, where demand for its top-end homes continues to be strong.

Cala completed 694 private sales, an increase of 4 per cent on a year ago, and achieved an average selling price of £335,000. Net bank debt has fallen from £117.4m to £41.1m.

Chief executive Alan Brown said that the deal in March, which saw insurer Legal & General and private equity firm Patron buy out previous majority owner Bank of Scotland, “has already begun to bear fruit”.

He added: “We are now able to develop land within our existing landbank at a faster rate while simultaneously seeking to acquire additional plots in high growth areas such as the east of Scotland and the south of England.

“This in turn is allowing us to take on more staff and open more sites.

“As a result of all this, I am very excited about the outlook for Cala and am confident in our ability to more than double the size of the business by 2017.”

The UK government’s Help to Buy scheme and its provision of cheap money to the banks through the Funding for Lending initiative have not directly effected the group, but they have given support to homebuyers across the market.

Brown said that the pace of growth in the sector was accelerating and that there had also been welcome signs that planning authorities were allowing more developments to go ahead through the National Planning Policy Framework.

However, the company said “many local authorities are failing to deliver a five-year land supply with the disappointing result that the appeals process is being used more frequently than it should be”.

The company intends to “significantly increase” the size of its Edinburgh business and is creating a new operating division in Aberdeen.

Graham Cunningham and Kevin Whitaker were appointed to newly-created roles of regional chairmen to help Cala achieve its ambitions in its key growth regions.

Cala was acquired by Patron and Legal & General alongside a 7 per cent investment by Cala’s existing senior management team.

The acquisition was made up of £145.7m of equity and £68.5m of debt, valuing Cala at £214.2m. Both investors are represented on the board.

Lloyds Banking Group continues to support the business with a new £100m five-year senior banking facility.

The company said it was “mindful of the wider challenges still facing the UK economy”, but “encouraging indicators” served to reinforce its positive outlook.

“As a result, management believe the group is well placed to continue to improve its financial performance and deliver further success in the year ahead.”