Vistry Group

Vistry Group plc
Public
Traded as LSEVTY
Industry Housebuilding
Founded 1965 (as Bovis Homes)
Headquarters Kings Hill, Kent, UK
Key people
Ian Tyler, Chairman
Greg Fitzgerald, CEO
Revenue £1,061.4 million (2018)[1]
£174.2 million (2018)[1]
£136.6 million (2018)[1]
Website www.vistrygroup.co.uk/

Vistry Group plc is a British housebuilding company based in Kings Hill, West Malling, Kent. Formerly Bovis Homes Group plc, it is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index. During the late 2010s, the quality of Bovis's housing was subject to customer complaints and threats of legal action. In January 2020, the group was renamed Vistry following the acquisition of housing businesses from Galliford Try, but was set to retain the Bovis Homes brand and the former Galliford Try brand, Linden Homes.

History

Bovis Homes

A Bovis Homes development near Southampton

Bovis Homes’ origins lay in the early post-war housing operations of Bovis Holdings (see also Bovis Construction). Bovis had been acquiring housing land in the early 1950s but the level of housebuilding was modest until 1967 when it acquired Frank Sanderson’s Malcolm Sanderson Developments and the much larger RT Warren.[2] Frank Sanderson rapidly expanded Bovis’s housing through acquisition including the quoted Page-Johnson and Varney Holdings; by 1973 Bovis was probably the country’s second or third largest housebuilder, with sales of over 2,600.[3]

The secondary banking crisis adversely affected Bovis Holdings’ banking subsidiary and the Group had to be rescued by P&O in March 1974.[4] Frank Sanderson left Bovis in 1973 and Philip Warner was appointed managing director of Bovis Homes, a position he held for 25 years.[5] During the 1970s Bovis reduced its housing volumes as it concentrated on rebuilding profitability, but it began to expand again in the 1980s.[3] The company was demerged from P&O and was floated on the London Stock Exchange as Bovis Homes in 1997.[4]

On 9 January 2017, Bovis announced that its chief executive David Ritchie, who had been at the company for 18 years, had stepped down with immediate effect; he was quoted to have said that it was time for someone new to lead the group.[6][7] The company was subsequently subject to negative national press coverage around quality issues, was the target of two takeover bids[8] and saw its HBF customer survey rating - a benchmark for housebuilding quality and customer service - drop to two out of five stars.[9] Former Galliford Try CEO Greg Fitzgerald took over as chief executive on 18 April 2017.[10] In September 2017 he announced a strategic review of the business.[11] In March 2019 the company announced that it has returned to four star status in the annual HBF survey.[12]

Galliford Try housing operations

A Linden Homes development in Bishops Cleeve, Gloucestershire

Galliford Try was formed in 2000 through a merger of Try Group plc, founded in 1908 in London, and Galliford plc, founded in 1916.[13] Between 2005 and 2015 the company was led by chief executive Greg Fitzgerald.[14][15] The company expanded its housing operations business acquiring Gerald Wood Homes in 2001,[13] Chartdale in January 2006,[16] Kendall Cross in November 2007,[17] Linden Homes in February 2008,[18] Rosemullion Homes in December 2009[19] and Shepherd Homes in May 2015.[20] All the individual house building divisions were rebranded as Linden Homes in 2011.[21]

Merger of Bovis Homes and Galliford Try's housing businesses

On 24 May 2019, Galliford Try's board rejected a £950m offer from Bovis Homes, led by former Galliford Try CEO Fitzgerald, for the Linden Homes and Partnerships & Regeneration businesses.[22] Talks reopened in September 2019,[23] with a preliminary deal, valued at £1.075bn, reportedly agreed.[24] On 7 November, it was reported that Bovis Homes had agreed a share and cash deal that valued Galliford Try's housing businesses at £1.1bn.[25] The deal was completed on 3 January 2020, with Bovis Homes - which had applied to be renamed Vistry Group - set to operate with both the Bovis Homes and Linden Homes brands, a combination that CEO Fitzgerald said "creates a top five housebuilder in the UK with the capacity to deliver over 12,000 homes per year in the medium term".[26] Trading in the company's shares under the new name, Vistry Group PLC, commenced on 6 January 2020.[27] Vistry Partnerships' first project wins included a £66m project on the Aylesbury Estate redevelopment at Elephant and Castle in south London,[28] and the first phase of Enfield Council's Meridian Water development.[29]

Operations

Prior to the Galliford Try deal, Bovis Homes operated seven regional businesses and built properties ranging from one-bedroom apartments to six-bedroom executive houses. It had offices in Kings Hill, Basingstoke, Reading, Exeter, Bishops Cleeve, Stafford, Coleshill and Milton Keynes.[30]

In April 2018 Bovis launched its Phoenix Range of 28 house types for both private and affordable housing.[31]

In February 2019 the company announced that it was going to launch its Partnership Housing Division to work closely with housing associations seeking new ways to support the traditional affordable housing delivery and to facilitate a quicker delivery of larger housing association schemes.[32]

Bovis Homes controversies

Following the resignation of David Ritchie as CEO on 9 January 2017,[6][7] shortly after the company had issued a profit warning following a slow-down in sales in December 2016,[33] the company faced controversy when newspapers reported it had offered cash incentives to customers to complete purchases and move into unfinished new homes.[34]

After a troubled period of increased press coverage of complaints from customers about perceived shortcuts of quality of homes built by the company as well as the formation of a Facebook group by unhappy customers called "Bovis Homes Victims Group", which also had a YouTube channel,[35][36] Bovis Homes interim CEO Earl Sibley acknowledged that their customer service levels had failed to meet the expected standards. He announced that the company would set aside £7m, to compensate customers who had been affected by finding problems with their new homes.[37][38]

On 9 December 2017, The Guardian reported that Bovis faced a potential class-action lawsuit by a group of homebuyers which had secured over 3,000 members.[39] On 19 April 2018 Bovis Homes were hit with fresh accusations of continued quality issues and poor customer service, misleading buyers, "deliberately" delaying essential repairs, failing adequately to repair defects and engaging in "underhand behaviour" to limit bad publicity. The Times reported that the previous year Bovis were forced to apologise to customers for poor workmanship after the newspaper revealed that hundreds of buyers had complained of bouncing and vibrating floors, leaks, missing insulation panels, poor drainage and unfinished gardens.[40]

The Times reported that the company set aside more than £10 million to deal with the complaints, but customers said service standards remained appalling. A whistleblower who worked as a customer service manager said he feared that construction problems were so common that the company might need to spend significantly more. The problems contributed to Bovis becoming the only national builder to be awarded a two-star rating out of five in the HBF annual customer satisfaction survey for the year ending September 2017. The newspaper reported that when The Times did a mystery shop on eight Bovis developments, all bar one claimed to have a star rating of three or above. Half claimed the company had four or five stars. The Times also reported that homebuyers were prevented from talking to the media by non-disclosure clauses.[40] On 10 May 2018, The Independent reported fresh allegations of home buyers being offered incentives including shopping vouchers for positive feedback.[41]

Bovis Homes claims to have been focused on turning the business around and repairing its reputation for build quality and customer service. In March 2019 Bovis Homes was awarded four star housebuilder status by the HBF following its annual customer satisfaction survey.[42]  

References

  1. ^ a b c "Preliminary Results 2018" (PDF). Bovis Homes Group. Retrieved 16 March 2019.
  2. ^ The Times 25 February 1967
  3. ^ a b Wellings, Fred: Dictionary of British Housebuilders (2006) Troubador. ISBN 978-0-9552965-0-5.
  4. ^ a b Bovis Homes History
  5. ^ Cooper, Peter, Building Relationships: The History of Bovis, Cassell, ISBN 0-297-82533-X
  6. ^ a b Sam Dean; Isabelle Fraser (9 January 2017). "Bovis Homes boss David Ritchie quits just days after house builder issues profit warning". The Telegraph. Retrieved 11 January 2017.
  7. ^ a b "David Ritchie stepping down as chief executive of Bovis Homes - BelfastTelegraph.co.uk". BelfastTelegraph. 9 January 2017. Retrieved 11 January 2017.
  8. ^ "Galliford Try abandons Bovis takeover". BBC News. 5 April 2017. Retrieved 30 October 2019.
  9. ^ HBF Customer Satisfaction Survey 2018
  10. ^ "Greg Fitzgerald: Meet the Bovis Homes boss who's anything but retiring about curbing fat cats". Evening Standard. 10 November 2017. Retrieved 20 March 2018.
  11. ^ Bovis promises higher dividend as part of wider strategic review, Financial Times, 7 September 2017
  12. ^ "Bovis, Redrow and Taylor Wimpey improve in customer rankings". The Construction Index. 27 March 2019. Retrieved 30 October 2019.
  13. ^ a b "Our Company History – Galliford Try Plc". gallifordtry.co.uk. Retrieved 22 March 2015.
  14. ^ Lynch, Russell (10 November 2017). "Greg Fitzgerald: Meet the Bovis Homes boss who's anything but shy". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 24 September 2018.
  15. ^ Schouten, Charlie (5 April 2017). "Ex-Galliford Try chief joins Bovis as CEO". Construction News. Retrieved 24 September 2018.
  16. ^ Galliford buys Chartdale for £67m[permanent dead link] Contract Journal, 19 January 2006
  17. ^ Galliford Try buys Kendall Cross for £9.3m Building, 15 November 2007
  18. ^ Galliford Try buys Linden Homes for £244.5m Building, 8 February 2008
  19. ^ "Galliford Try buys Cornwall housebuilder for £200,000". BD online. 4 December 2009. Retrieved 17 March 2017.
  20. ^ "Shepherd sells housing business". Yorkshire Post. 14 May 2015. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  21. ^ "Galliford Try Homes acquires new land as part of expansion plans". smartnewhomes.com. 12 January 2010. Retrieved 19 March 2010.
  22. ^ Prior, Grant (28 May 2019). "Galliford Try rejects £950m Bovis bid for housing business". Construction Enquirer. Retrieved 28 May 2019.
  23. ^ Morby, Aaron (10 September 2019). "Bovis reopens talks to buy Galliford Try housing arm". Construction Enquirer. Retrieved 11 September 2019.
  24. ^ "Galliford Try warms to Bovis' £1bn offer". Construction Index. 10 September 2019. Retrieved 11 September 2019.
  25. ^ Morby, Aaron (7 November 2019). "Bovis Homes agrees £1.1bn deal for Galliford Try housing arm". Construction Enquirer. Retrieved 7 November 2019.
  26. ^ Morby, Aaron (3 January 2020). "Galliford Try completes housing arm sale". Construction Enquirer. Retrieved 3 January 2020.
  27. ^ "Bovis Homes Group PLC (the "Company") - Change of Name to Vistry Group PLC". London Stock Exchange. 3 January 2020. Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  28. ^ Morby, Aaron (7 January 2020). "Newly-formed Vistry Partnerships wins first major contract". Construction Enquirer. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  29. ^ "Deal agreed for £250m first phase of Meridian Water". The Construction Index. 8 January 2020. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  30. ^ "Contact us". Bovis Homes. Retrieved 16 April 2017.
  31. ^ Crosland, Jonas (6 September 2019). "Bovis Homes bouncing back". Investors Chronicle. Retrieved 29 October 2019.
  32. ^ "National housebuilder launches housing association division". Inside Housing. 28 February 2019. Retrieved 29 October 2019.
  33. ^ Rhiannon Bury (28 December 2016). "House builder Bovis warns that December slowdown could hit profits". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 12 January 2017.
  34. ^ John Knowles (14 January 2017). "Pay deals 'behind Bovis house of horrors'". The Times. Retrieved 16 March 2019.
  35. ^ Vaish, Costas Pitas and Esha. "British builder Bovis faces further profit fall after complaints about quality". Reuters UK. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  36. ^ "Bovis and its houses of so many horrors". The Times. 11 January 2017. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  37. ^ "Bovis Homes shares tumble as it says it will build fewer homes in 2017". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  38. ^ "Poor customer service hits Bovis profit". BBC News. 20 February 2017. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  39. ^ "Angry homebuyers plan class-action lawsuit against Bovis". The Guardian. 9 December 2017. Retrieved 19 April 2018.
  40. ^ a b "Buyers in despair at badly built new homes". The Times. 19 April 2018. Retrieved 19 April 2018.
  41. ^ "Bovis homebuyers offered 'cash in return for positive feedback', investigation reveals". The Independent. 10 May 2018. Retrieved 10 May 2018.
  42. ^ Charlie Taylor-Kroll and Jack Torrance (16 January 2019). "Bovis bounces back from faulty homes scandal". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 30 October 2019.

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