Hugh Osmond bidding for UK building firm

PIZZA-to-pubs entrepreneur Hugh Osmond has made a takeover offer for Crest Nicholson that values the UK housebuilder at £300-350m.

Horizon Acquisition, Osmond’s quoted vehicle, put the takeover plan to a meeting of Crest’s 40 owner banks on Wednesday. The potential deal is part of bold plans by Osmond to consolidate the recession-hit housebuilding sector.

According to reports, Horizon wants a commitment from the banks that they will consider selling other property firms and land portfolios that have come under their control.

Crest is currently in the hands of Lloyds Banking Group, which took control of the housebuilder last year through a debt-for-equity swap.

The housebuilder would not confirm if it had received a bid from Horizon when contacted yesterday.

However chief executive Stephen Stone said: “Reviewing the long term future and prosperity of the company remains a perpetual process, and any decisions we make in terms of strategic direction will be carefully considered to ensure shareholder return and the ongoing stability of the business.”

Horizon has plenty of money to play with, after the shell company raised £418m in an initial public offering in February this year. Osmond said he would use the funds to make a corporate acquisition.

“Today there are fundamentally good companies which have fundamentally poor capital structures, because of the weight of their debt,” Osmond said at the time.

Crest was previously owned by Sir Tom Hunter in a joint venture with HBOS. It builds around 2,000 homes a year in the South East, South West and the Midlands.