Seymour puts Watpac stake on the block

Long-time property stalwart Kevin Seymour, AM, has reached an agreement to sell his 15.6 per cent stake in listed Queensland developer Watpac Group to Belgium's Besix Group.

Long-time property stalwart Kevin Seymour, AM, has reached an agreement to sell his 15.6 per cent stake in listed Queensland developer Watpac Group to Belgium's Besix Group.

Mr Seymour has been a Watpac board member since 1996, eight years as chairman - retiring from that position last July - and will leave the company in September.

In a recent interview, Mr Seymour said he was "72 this year and I think that everyone should realise at a certain age they should be prepared to relinquish the reins and not want to stay there too long".

Mr Seymour is worth about $550 million, according to the latest BRW Rich List, making him one of the richest men in Queensland.

Chris Freeman, AM, who took over the reins as chairman of Watpac, said that the agreement with Besix was subject to approval from the Foreign Investment Review Board and was scheduled to settle within the next 30 days. Analysts said the deal was positive for Watpac.

Watpac, which grew from Watkins Pacific in 1983, is involved in about $1.4 billion of work in hand projects across the country, including the under construction One Central Park, Sydney, and 8 Central Avenue at Eveleigh. In Melbourne, the projects include the Rue de Chapel, Prahran, and the Melbourne Park Redevelopment Eastern Plaza.

It is also in a joint venture at Port Macquarie with construction group National Buildplan, which went into administration on Monday. Watpac is looking at the project for its options.

In the half year to December 31, last year, Watpac reported a net profit of $1.3 million, which was affected by $4.4 million in net post-tax asset impairments associated with four property holdings and no dividend was declared.

"The transaction is a significant endorsement of Watpac's skills, strategy and industry leadership by Belgium's largest and most successful construction group," Mr Freeman said.

He said the group's focus was on generating returns for shareholders in the form of restoring the business well enough to generate a dividend.

"We are on the way to recalibrating Watpac to increase shareholder value and this strategic deal with Besix is a good fit to help with this outcome," Mr Freeman said. "Its still tough conditions and the banks are still reluctant to lend but we are confident having Besix on the register will be a positive."

Besix Group is one of the world's largest privately owned construction groups.

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