Kier rights issue falters despite strong growth

Dominic Browne

Kier's £250m rights issue has had a slow take-up with less than 40% of shareholders acting on the chance for cut price equity.

Kier Group said only 38% of shareholders had increased their interest in the company - around 64m shares were offered, at a 34% discount to existing shareholders.

The company highlighted that the rights issue was underwritten so it had already raised roughly £250m from the move, helping strengthen its balance sheet as the cash will help pay off a £650m debt.

However it does leave its investor banks with greater exposure, and the move has been taken as a further sign of a lack of confidence in the construction and supporting services sectors.

Kier has posted strong growth this year and ends 2018 with a record order book of £10.2bn.

Haydn Mursell, Kier chief executive, said: 'Following the completion of the £250m rights issue, Kier enters 2019 with a strong balance sheet which puts us in an excellent competitive position.'

In his round up for the year, he added: 'We have achieved our 10% year-on-year profit growth with an operating profit of £160m.'

Despite the strong growth Kier's shares fell after the rights issue. Key to the lack of confidence in the sector could be limited profit margins.

Across the Kier divisions property secured a 27% return on capital, living hit 15% return on capital, but the operating margins in construction and services were 2% and 5% respectively - 'very good considering the challenges the industry has faced over the last 12 months' Mr Mursell said.

This year saw infrastructure giant Carillion collapse and Interserve hit troubled times.

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