Slow news

There is nothing as deceptive as an obvious fact.

The first thing they teach you at journalism school is that a story about a dog biting a person isn’t really a news story at all. Man bites dog – now that’s a story.

So the story we ran yesterday that Travis Perkins is interested in buying some of the Wolseley businesses should they come up for sale is very much in the former category.

Of course TP are going to be interested in buying some of the Build Center branches. Who wouldn’t be? The independent merchant sector often lumps all the nationals together and can be somewhat disparaging but there are some great branches and great people at Build Center in useful locations which would fit nicely with just about any other merchant business.

And of course TP are likely to be interested in Encon – who wouldn’t be interested in a distribution business that focuses on the insulation market with the increasing emphasis from every corner on energy and carbon emission saving? Especially if there also happened to be a complementary business, called, say CCF, currently in the portfolio.

Of course all this speculation could just as easily be applied to any other merchanting business with complementary brands or businesses and an eye for future growth. The spotlight has fallen on Travis because they popped their corporate head over the parapet when they agreed to purchase BSS.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that anyone running a merchant business who has the cash and the inclination to expand and who doesn’t have a good old look at any business that comes up for sale isn’t really doing the job properly.

Mind you, this does all hinge on Wolseley actually putting the relevant businesses up for sale. There has been a lot of media speculation about which bits might be for the chop and, although CEO Ian Meakins has said he won’t dilly-dally around if the decision to sell has to be made, he also said that it could take up to two years. I know at least two parties other parties who are very keen to take Build Center on but so far, Wolseley are hanging onto it.

And then again, if all the talk about a double dip recession proves in any way accurate, we’ve all got rather more to worry about.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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