Balfour quits after 21 years as top man at Havelock

ONE of Scotland's longest-serving chief executives bowed out yesterday as Hew Balfour stepped down as head of shop and school re-fitter Havelock Europa after nearly 21 years at the top.

Havelock – which has issued three profit warnings in the past six months – has appointed David Hurcomb, a director of construction group Carillion, as interim chief executive.

Finance director Grant Findlay told The Scotsman that Balfour's departure had been "amicable" and that Hurcomb had been recruited via a head hunter.

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Findlay said he was comfortable if the search for a new leader took "several months".

Havelock's share price – which hit a high of 57p last summer but was down at 3.5p before the announcement, valuing the company at just 3.3 million – staged a revival yesterday, shooting up 73.5 per cent to 14.75p, increasing its market cap to about 5.7m.

But Findlay said he believed the share price rise was due more to the reassurances that the company had offered regarding its banking facilities with Bank of Scotland, rather than a reaction to the change in leadership.

Havelock said it had reached an "agreement in principle" on "satisfactory terms" regarding its banking facilities and expected to sign a new deal with its bankers before the end of the month.

The company said Bank of Scotland has been kept "fully informed" of its trading performance during recent months and had been supportive.

Findlay said: "Hew has left without a period of notice. It's an agreement between the board and Hew, which makes the changeover instantaneous.

"We're now over the worst and want to get the leadership in place in a measured way."

Chairman Malcolm Gourlay added: "I would like to thank Hew Balfour, both personally and on behalf of the company, for his commitment and vigour over many years. Hew joined Havelock as chief executive in 1989 and has led its expansion into print and education and leaves it as a much bigger business with a greatly improved spread of activities."