Wembley builder in takeover approach

The Australian builder of the much-delayed Wembley stadium complex saw its shares soar today after it confirmed it had received a takeover approach.

The Australian builder of the much-delayed Wembley stadium complex saw its shares soar today after it confirmed it had received a takeover approach.

Shares in Multiplex jumped more than 17% on the Australian stock market after it said it was due to start talks with a potential bidder.

The interested party, which has not been named, has already held talks with Multiplex’s largest shareholder, a trust headed by the company’s founders, the Roberts family.

Three members of the Roberts family hold senior positions in Multiplex. Andrew Roberts is the group’s chief executive, while Tim and Denby Roberts are both company executives.

The firm was established by their father John Roberts in Perth in 1962. It was listed on the Australian Stock Exchange in 2003 and had a market value of more than AUS$4.1bn (€2.5bn) after today’s share price rise.

Multiplex said no firm proposal had been put to the trust in the discussions.

Multiplex suffered huge losses during the last year following severe delays to the completion of Wembley Stadium.

The £757m (€1.2bn) stadium was due to be handed over early last year, but since then dozens of football and matches and concerts have had to be moved elsewhere.

Despite taking a hit of AUS$364.3m (€218.6m) from the delay, the group reported net profits to AUS$216.8m (€130.1m) for the year to June 30, 2006.

As well as construction, Multiplex specialises in property development, property funds management and facilities management.

It employs more than 2,000 people across these four divisions and has established operations throughout Australia, New Zealand, the UK and the Middle East.

Recent projects have included London’s retail and leisure development White City – since sold to another developer – as well as the World Square shopping centre in Sydney and the Dubai Marina in the United Arab Emirates.

Analysts speculated a private or offshore investor could be attracted by Multiplex’s assets. Retail and residential property group Lend Lease denied it was behind the approach, after being linked in the Australian press.

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