BELLWAY chief executive John Watson is moving across to become the house builder’s chairman in the New Year.
Watson will take up his new role when Howard Dawe, who joined Bellway in 1961, retires at the end of January.
Watson’s successor as chief executive will be Ted Ayres, who is currently the group’s operations director. During his decade with Bellway, he has also worked as the group’s Thames Gateway division’s managing director and Southern Regional chairman.
Watson, who has more than three decades’ service with the Newcastle-based business, said: “Ted joined us 10 years ago, I’m in my 34th year. We firmly believe house building is a long-term business.
“Age is one thing, the current chairman is 68 and he’s done a long stint. I’m 58 and it’s normal succession planning. We have had the same people around for a long time.
“Ted is from the Southern region – and around 60% of our turnover is in the South and 40% in the North. We have no intention of moving (the Bellway head office) but it’s a stronger market in the South.”
The management changes were announced as Bellway gave a positive trading update ahead of the publication of its full year results in October.
It said that sales jumped by 6.2% in the year to the end of July, with demand for new homes remaining “resilient” and average selling prices also increasing.
Bellway completed the sale of 5,226 homes, up from 4,922 the previous year. The average selling price jumped by more than 6% from £175,613 to around £187,000.
The group now forecasts its operating margin to hit “at least” 11% and pre-tax profits to be “modestly ahead of current consensus” of £98m.
Watson said: “It’s a reconfirmation of our strategy of improving the volumes, margins and average selling price.”
Bellway’s order book is 3.4% up on last year at £441.2m and 133 reservations came via the Government’s NewBuy incentive scheme to get people on to the housing ladder, which was launched in March.
Watson said: “The fog hasn’t cleared entirely, it is still difficult. I wouldn’t say there was more confidence, people are still worried about jobs. New job announcements boost house building and we take comfort that the unemployment figures aren’t rising.”