Watkin Jones Chester Bus Depot
The former Chester bus depot: one of Watkin Jones' pipeline projects

Boss to step back as Watkin Jones reports healthy year

The North Wales residential developer reported a 13% climb in revenue to £302m and an 18% leap in gross profit to £63.5m for the year to 30 September 2017, as Mark Watkin Jones announced his decision to resign as chief executive once a successor is found.

Chairman Grenville Turner said: “After 15 successful years at the helm, the board understands Mark’s desire to relinquish the CEO position and the associated demands of this role.

“Mark has played a pivotal part in shaping the Watkin Jones strategy and success and has built an experienced and stable leadership team who have increasingly taken on the day-to-day responsibility for the running of the business.

“The search for a successor will commence immediately and we will make a further announcement upon completion of the formal search process.” Watkin Jones will remain on the board following his departure from the full-time role.

Over the course of its financial year, Watkin Jones delivered all 10 of its student accommodation projects in time for the 2017-2018 academic year, covering a total of 3,314 beds. Seventeen student schemes with a development value of £506m were sold, and the group currently has a development pipeline of 9,120 student beds across 23 sites, 15 of which have been forward-sold.

In the build-to-rent sector, the group owns or has exchanged contracts on five development sites and is in negotiations on several others. Watkin Jones is aiming to build out 1,500 units between 018 and 2022 in the sector.

The group, which has a history dating back more than 200 years, listed on AIM in 2016, in what was the junior market’s largest listing for two years. The latest financial year also saw it bring its accommodation management brands under one title, Freah Property Group.

Mark Watkin Jones said: “The group has generated strong revenue and earnings growth, driven by our core student accommodation development business. We are also pleased to report further increases in gross margin, supported by the strong location of our student accommodation developments and first full year contribution from Fresh Property Group, the group’s accommodation management business.

“We will look to replicate our strength and expertise in student accommodation in the build to rent sector. Our build to rent division made significant progress in the year and we were delighted to deliver our first development. As the sector continues to attract a growing number of UK and international funds it’s pleasing to see our development pipeline grow.”

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