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Mon September 23 2019

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Malaysian investor takes 70% of Willmott Dixon's residential business

9 Nov 17 Willmott Dixon has agreed to sell a majority share of its residential development business Be Living to Malaysian developer EcoWorld International.

Rick Willmott, front right, and chairman Colin Enticknap, back right, from Willmott Dixon join EcoWorld chairman Tan Sri Dato' Sri Liew Kee Sin, back left, and chief executive Cheong Heng Leong for the signing
Rick Willmott, front right, and chairman Colin Enticknap, back right, from Willmott Dixon join EcoWorld chairman Tan Sri Dato' Sri Liew Kee Sin, back left, and chief executive Cheong Heng Leong for the signing

Willmott Dixon and EcoWorld International have agreed heads of terms on the transfer of a 70% stake in the London-focused Be Living. The acquisition remains subject to due diligence and board approvals but is expected to complete in December 2017.

The deal has the potential to increase EcoWorld International’s UK presence fourfold by giving it access to a land bank of approximately 6,700 residential units with a project gross development value (GDV) of at least £2.5bn.

With Willmott Dixon retaining a 30% stake, the two companies will be working in partnership, enabling EcoWorld International to join projects in Barking & Dagenham, Barnet, Brent, Bromley, Ealing, Hounslow, Lambeth, Tower Hamlets and Westminster together with one major project outside London, in Woking, Surrey.

EcoWorld International and Be plan to both develop mainstream residential units for market sale and in the build to rent market.

Willmott Dixon chief executive Rick Willmott said: “The proposed investment by EcoWorld International is the culmination of our long-term strategy to inject additional capital to support Be Living’s growth plans as a stand-alone business following its demerger from Willmott Dixon last year.

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“EcoWorld International is a great fit for Be, both culturally and in its ambition. The company shares our focus on high-quality residential developments that create a sense of place and legacy, and our ability to accelerate the delivery of housing on regeneration sites by combining homes for rent with private sale was also a key attraction for EcoWorld International.  This investment will take Be Living forward to its next stage of growth and we look forward to developing a successful long term partnership with EcoWorld once this transaction is concluded.”

The deal will operate outside of EcoWorld International’s project joint ventures with Ballymore Group, which continues to seek opportunities in higher-end prime central London locations.

EcoWorld executive vice chairman Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Liew Kee Sin said: “EcoWorld International sees great potential in the UK market and this deal shows our ambition to further grow our business here. Today’s announcement reinforces our commitment to supporting the UK’s efforts to address the housing shortage across London and the South East of England and underlines our ambition to play a positive and sustainable role in the UK market.

“We are responding to the government’s call to provide more quality homes that an average income earner is able to afford. We are also delighted to be partnering in this venture with a company of the experience and stature of Willmott Dixon. We strongly believe that our shared values and complementary strengths will enable us to build a highly successful development business together that is able to serve the needs of both the local market and the broader international audience that calls London home.”

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