Real Estate

Watkin Jones finance chief cashes in

Watkin Jones’ chief financial officer, Philip Byrom, has sold 18 per cent of his stake in the property developer, banking £1.28m in the process. The disposal, which the group said was made to “facilitate future personal financial planning”, leaves Mr Byrom with 2.6m shares, currently worth £5.8m.

Last June, Mr Byrom was also awarded 115,955 share options under a long-term incentive plan, which can be exercised in 2021 should the group meet certain earnings targets, and Mr Byrom remain in post.

There is little reason to think he might head elsewhere. Despite jitters across the UK residential property market, demand for Watkin Jones’ build-to-rent and purpose-built student accommodation remains robust, incubating the group from declining transactional volumes and weakening valuations elsewhere.

Peel Hunt forecasts adjusted earnings per share of 16.5p in the year to September 2019, and 18.2p in full-year 2020.

Since the retirement of Bruce Thompson — Diploma’s longstanding chief executive — in May 2018, the distribution group has struggled to find a new leader. Initially, Mr Thompson was replaced by Richard Ingram, former president of Smiths Detection. But Mr Ingram left at the end of August, as the company said a change at the top was “in the best interests of the company and its shareholders”.

The group performed well in the following months, despite uncertainty at the top. It beat profit expectations for the year to September 2018, before trading in line during the three months to December. New chief executive Johnny Thomson was announced in January and appointed at the end of last month.

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Mr Thomson bought 22,000 shares in the group on the day of his appointment. He was also granted 122,801 shares on the same day as part of the group’s performance share plan.


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