Miller Group returns to black with record order book

Keith Miller: 'We are reading the menu but we are nor on it'
Keith Miller: 'We are reading the menu but we are nor on it'
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Miller Group announced today that it had returned to profit amid signs of improvement in the outlook for all its divisions.

Chief executive Keith Miller predicted a “busy year” for the housebuilding, construction and mining company.

“We are pleased at how the year turned out,” he said after announcing a £6.6 million pre-tax profit for 2012 against a loss in the previous year of £30.4m. Profit before interest rose to £29.2m from £20.8m.

He said there was a “reasonably strong market” for housebuilding in the first nine weeks of the current year and reservations were 10 per cent ahead, aided by greater mortgage availability and government initiatives to help first time buyers. NewBuy, launched by Westminster, and MI New Home, the Scottish Government’s equivalent, accounted for 9 per cent of reservations in the second half of 2012.

“Everything is moving in the right direction,” he said. “All three businesses are operating well and it is going to be a busy year for us.”

GSO Capital Partners, a division of private equity firm Blackstone, helped underpin the Edinburgh-based group in February last year with a £160m equity investment that left it with a 56 per cent stake. Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds were involved in a refinancing of the debt which had been cut by £504.6m.

“We see good prospects for growth. We have enough resources now and headroom on our bank facilities to help us invest in new land,” said Miller.

He noted that there had been a fair amount of activity in the sector with Crest Nicholson floating and McCarthy & Stone involved in talks with Cinven. But Miller would be growing organically: “We are watching what is going on. We are reading the menu but we are not on it.”

Miller said housing had suffered four years of gloom. Housebuilders had restructured but volumes of 100,000 new-builds were half their 2007 peak.

Group turnover grew from £587.6m to £619.9m, half the £1.3 billion record in 2007.