CONSTRUCTION giant Carillion has acquired a majority stake in Manchester-based property developer ASK Real Estate, with Simply Red star Mick Hucknall, who helped launch the company, exiting the business.

The company behind the First Street development said its four founders, Andy Dodd, Simon Bate, Ken Knott and singer Hucknall, had been bought out by Carillion for an undisclosed figure.

ASK Real Estate managing director John Hughes and finance director Jonathan Cross retain their executive roles and will be joined on the board of Ask by Simon Eastwood, managing director of Carillion's developments business and Peter Forsyth, Carillion's director of strategy and investment. 

The investment builds on an existing joint venture between ASK, Carillion and Tristan Capital Partners which is delivering a two phase development at Embankment in Manchester City Centre. 

The first phase comprises 101 Embankment, a 10-storey, 165,000sq ft development of Grade A office space, retail and leisure units and 442-space multi-storey car park pre-let to Q-Park due for completion in July 2016. 

The joint venture will also submit a planning application in February for the second phase of the scheme, an adjacent identical office building entitled 100 Embankment.

Hughes told TheBusinessDesk the restructured company would continue its programme of pursuing "high quality, commercially led development".

But he went on: "Having the backing of Carillion puts us up there on to a different level. It is a game-changing deal."

The newly-constituted board of ASK will work with Carillion to identify and deliver with a projected portfolio value of £500m over the next five years in major cities forming the spine of the Northern Powerhouse from Manchester in the North West to Yorkshire and the North East.
Hughes said, however, ASK's "primary focus" would remain in Manchester. "This is the city where all the action is," he said. "Having said that we also want to expand our activities across the Northern cities, including Leeds, Liverpool and we would also like to return to doing more in Sheffield."

And he paid tribute to the founders of the company which launched 15 years ago. "The time was right for them and for us, for a change bearing in mind the profile and the scope of the projects in Manchester can and needs to be developed," he said.

With a continued emphasis on Manchester, ASK is also extending its presence outside of the city region following its recent joint venture appointment with PATRIZIA UK by Gateshead Council to deliver an 800,000sq ft mixed-use scheme on the banks of the River Tyne at Gateshead Quays. 

Richard Howson, chief executive of Carillion, said: "Carillion has established an excellent working relationship with ASK on the Embankment project in Manchester and this investment will enable both businesses to build on that success at a time of exciting opportunities in the north of England. 

"Carillion already has a strong presence in the region delivering prestigious projects in a number of places including Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds and this deal underlines our long-term commitment to the North." 

Sir Howard Bernstein, chief executive of Manchester City Council, said: "The investment and backing by Carillion as a major UK plc in a Manchester property developer is a further boost to the economic growth of the Manchester city region. 

"With pioneering developments such as First Street adding value and creating jobs, we expect ASK to continue to play a prominent role in the transformation of the city region and remains a key partner of the city council." 

Source: TheBusinessDesk

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