Comment: Timing may be everything in Miller’s next move

Terry Murden. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Terry Murden. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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THE bigger private companies are always on the radar of the corporate finance community wanting to find them acquisition targets or float on the stock market.

So it is with Miller Group, the Edinburgh-based housebuilder and construction group that has been regularly touted for a listing.

However, that was during the boom years when profits rose relentlessly and the company seemed on a one-way ticket to better times.

The crash has brought about a new reality, although Miller is again on the rise and joining in the recovery party.

By inviting advisers to parade before Blackstone, the biggest shareholder, it looks as if it has realised that it is the health of the markets that will dictate when it exits. Just 18 months after injecting capital into the business, this looks like a hasty retreat but buoyant markets are providing an opportune moment to cash in.

Keith Miller, the company’s chief executive, has had a roller coaster few years, battling with family members and negotiating the deals that brought in HBOS and then Blackstone to inject capital.

But the company touts itself as Britain’s biggest independent construction company which should be enough to develop an appetite among investors.

Whether or not Miller floats or is sold, a return of confidence in both the investment and housebuilding sectors should ensure there is no shortage of interest.

Where there’s filth there’s movie money

Scotland’s relationship with the film industry is best described as a flirtation rather than a full-time commitment, though there are signs of it getting serious.

Edinburgh, in particular, is gaining a reputation as a favoured location, with Filth coinciding with the release of Sunshine on Leith. Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman were in the city to film the historic drama The Railway Man while Scarlett Johansson filmed parts of Under The Skin in the city and in Glasgow.

There is some concern that James McAvoy’s character in the movie version of Irvine Walsh’s novel Filth will damage Edinburgh’s image. After all, frequent vomiting, drug abuse and misogny are not the sort of stuff that fill the brochures of VisitScotland. However, much the same reaction greeted Trainspotting, another of Welsh’s novels that made it to the screen, and it became a cult movie.

Sunshine on Leith is touted as the feelgood movie of the year, perhaps the perfect antidote to those who will find Filth a bit too filthy. Either way, they are providing work for Scotland’s nascent film industry and adding to pressures for proper studios.

It is potentially a big money spinner for a country that can offer the variety of mountains and glens, the historic backdrops of Edinburgh and the streets of Glasgow that have been used as a stand-in for American cities.

US television series Outlander will base its filming at a warehouse in Cumbernauld and could bring £20 million to the Scottish economy. Production of the time-travelling series, made by cable network Starz and Sony Pictures Television, will receive public money.

The Scottish Government has established a Film Studio Delivery Group to find the right location for the required facilities. With a number of other television shows interested in Scotland, there is clearly enough interest to make it a worthwhile investment.