Watpac: Belgians buy in

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

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

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, he 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".

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, who succeeded Mr Seymour as chairman, said 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 is involved in about $1.4 billion of work in projects across the country. 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.

In the half-year to December 31, 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.

Mr Freeman said the group's focus was now 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.

Besix Group is one of the world's largest privately owned construction groups, operating in 17 countries.

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