Plumbline duo cash in as Grafton enters Scotland

TWO Glaswegian businessmen yesterday retired with more than £14 million between them after they sold their plumbers merchants chain to Irish DIY giant Grafton.

David Miller and Danny McKinlay, who founded Glasgow-based Plumbline from a single office in 1988, reaped the benefits of 15 years of growth as the Dublin-based firm made its first inroads into the Scottish market.

Plumbline, which now has 17 offices from Inverness to Leeds and annual sales of around 40m, was snapped up by Grafton in a double deal with Ireland-based Telfords worth 40m (28m).

Grafton executive chairman Michael Chadwick revealed that Plumbline was the larger of the two companies, and cost "in excess of 20m (14m)". He confirmed that Miller and McKinlay owned "99 per cent" of the shares between them.

McKinlay, 46, stepped down from his role as a director of plumbers merchant Cadel to set up Plumbline in 1988. He was joined by Miller, now 50, a former plumber who had been a colleague of McKinlay’s for two years.

The two have now retired, and leave the day-to-day running of the business to Tommy Todd - previously area manager and a director.

Chadwick said: "We are keeping the same management team, although David and Danny are, understandably, retiring. This acquisition gives the group an initial but important presence in the Scottish plumbers merchant market."

He added that Plumbline would shortly be expanded "both organically and by further acquisition", and would open its first new branch under its new owners "in the next few weeks".

Grafton’s shares climbed 2.5 per cent or 8.5p to 350p on news of the double purchase, which sees the company break ground in Scotland and the midlands of Ireland.

Chadwick said: "While we have consistently grown our plumbing business in England, we have had our eye on Scotland for some time. This is a very significant move for the company."

The firm’s plumbers merchant division trades under the brand name Plumbase in the UK, which after the acquisition of Plumbline will have 135 branches. The firm also operates builder wholesaler and DIY divisions.

It posted half-year pre-tax profits up 32 per cent to 41.7m (29.2m) last month, compared to 31.6m (22.6m) in the same period last year. It said at the time it was committed to an aggressive acquisition strategy.