Lendlease puts construction arm up for sale

Aaron Morby 4 weeks ago

Lendlease is pulling out of the UK and selling its construction business in a radical strategic overhaul to focus on its home Australian market.

Plan to unravel global construction and development business to focus on Australia
Plan to unravel global construction and development business to focus on Australia

The firm expects to offload its UK construction arm within the next 18 months and said it was already well advanced on plans to sell the US construction operation.

Lendlease will also offload its portfolio of nearly a dozen development projects in London, Birmingham and Manchester.

The dramatic plan to simplify and restructure the global development and construction business comes after a disappointing four years, which has seen Lendlease’s stock fall by around half.

Group chief executive Tony Lombardo said that Lendlease would realise A$4.5bn (£2.3bn) from the sale of international construction and early release of global property assets.

The sale of international construction will impact 1,400 staff, while the exit from property assets should raise A$2.8bn (£1.5bn).

Lombardo said: “During the next 18 months our focus will be on divesting the international construction operation to focus on our most profitable home market, Australia.

“We have largely exited our Asian construction business through the establishment of the life science JV.  And we are already well progressed on the divestment of our US construction business.

“In the UK, we are in the early stages of preparing the business for sale in an improving market with a strong backlog and preferred work book of more than A$5bn (£2.6bn).

“Finally we have commenced to release A$2.4bn (£1.25bn) of capital from our international development projects, partially offset by forecast expenditure of A$700m (£365m) for engineering and UK building remediation work, resulting in a net A$1.7bn (£900m) in capital release.

“This acceleration will focus on three key areas. First, we will look to sell land and inventory held on the balance sheet.

“Second for our land management agreements, we are the master developer and will work with our partners to realise value and accelerate the release of capital through either bringing in new partners or land sales.

“Thirdly on eight projects we have commenced as a capital partner, we will take projects through to completion and then divest.”

UK development portfolio

Land for sale

  • Deptford Landings (London)
  • Elephant Park (London)
  • Potato Wharf (Manchester)

JV to complete

  • Stratford Cross (office), London
  • Elephant Park (Daiwa House, London)

Land management revised

  • Thamesmead (London)
  • Euston Station (London)
  • Silvertown (London)
  • Smithfield  (Birmingham)
  • Stratford Cross (London land),
  • London High Road West (London)

Lendlease has set up a new Capital Release Unit to strategically maximise embedded value through accelerated recycling of capital and divestment of international construction.

This will be under the direct control of Lombardo and will also see out under-construction development projects like Stratford in East London.

Lendlease said the sell-off plan would see non-cash writedowns of around £260m relating to goodwill attached to the US and UK construction businesses from the Bovis acquisition in 1999.

Latest accounts for Lendlease Europe, which largely represents the UK, revealed construction revenue fell 17% to £380m with EBITDA up from £2m to £5.6m in the year to June 2023.

The pre-tax figure stood at a loss of £124m, due to additional building safety writedowns. Overall the headcount stands at just over 1,200 staff with around two-thirds involved with construction.

One city analyst said: “To a degree Lendlease Construction in the UK looks like an in-house contractor for the development business. So it begs the questions who would buy the business at present.

“Lendlease say they are confident they can find a buyer but at what price without the development pipeline.”

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