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Ash4781

Berkeley’s Pidgley, Caller Of U.k. Housing Crashes, Steps Aside

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http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=206...id=aBQktkdfl6Es

June 26 (Bloomberg) -- Tony Pidgley, the co-founder of Berkeley Group Holdings Plc who called the last two U.K. housing crashes, will step aside as managing director after 33 years.

Finance Director Rob Perrins will succeed Pidgley, capping his 15-year career with the Cobham-based homebuilder. Pidgley, 61, said in an interview he will become chairman in September and will continue to be “very involved†in overseeing the 10- member board.

“It’s better to do the transition now while I’ve still got the energy,†Pidgley said. “I’m still going to be very involved.â€

The succession plan comes amid Britain’s worst property crash for a quarter of a century and doubts over the financial viability of Saudi partner Saad Investments Co. Pidgley sold off land in 1988, the year before Britain’s last housing bubble burst and he abandoned volume homebuilding in 2004, leaving the company debt free as the property market crashed again in 2007.

“These changes were inevitable,†said Imran Akram, an analyst at Collins Stewart. “It is no surprise that Rob Perrins takes over, but Tony Pidgley is undeniably the leading light in housebuilding with a strong support base.â€

Berkeley today reported annual profit of 86.1 million pounds ($120 million), or 65.6 pence a share, meeting analyst estimates. The 38 percent profit drop reflects a slump in demand after the credit crisis prompted banks to rein in mortgage lending and unemployment climbed as the economy slid into recession. Rivals Taylor Wimpey Plc and Barratt Developments Plc renegotiated loans to avoid a breach in covenants.

The homebuilder climbed 2 percent to 821.5 pence in London trading as of 8:12 a.m. local time.

Saad Situation

Berkeley also said it was “saddened†by the situation at long-term joint venture partner Saad, once its largest shareholder. The Saudi company lowered its holding to 2.73 percent as international lenders have sold shares pledged as collateral for loans after regulators froze billionaire owner Maan al-Sanea’s personal bank accounts.

The British and Saudi businesses have co-funded developments in southeast England since the 1990s, and they deepened ties in 2007 with plans to invest as much as 1 billion pounds in residential and commercial property. Berkeley doesn’t anticipate any financial loss or “adverse impact†from the five joint ventures with Saad, it said today.

I was under the impression no-one could see this coming?

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