AIM-listed agent opens negotiations for services firm as part of regional expansion plan

Colliers CRE has made an approach to buy north of England specialist Sanderson Weatherall to continue its expansion across the UK.

It is thought negotiations are at an early stage and no deal has yet been agreed.

Well-known northern services firm Sanderson Weatherall, which is headed by managing partner Peter Dunlop, was formed in 2004, when Sanderson & Gilbert merged with Weatherall Green & Smith North.

It has 270 staff, including 190 surveyors and valuers, in offices in Manchester, London, Newcastle upon Tyne, Teesside and Leeds.

It has several high-profile clients and instructions including managing the £280m investment portfolio of one of Manchester’s largest employers, the Co-operative Group, as well as a strong rating department after buying rating practice Dixon Rankin for an undisclosed amount in 2005.

Companies House records show Sanderson Weatherall’s turnover last year was £19.5m with a pretax profit of £621,024, which was up on 2006, when it had a turnover of £16.8m and a pretax profit of £413,000.

Colliers CRE has made no secret of its plans to expand regionally, focusing on the north, where its operations are not as strong.

The AIM-listed firm, chaired by former British Land chief executive Sir John Ritblat, posted a 25% increase in pretax profits for 2007 and said it was looking to expand further.

Last year it bought Bristol-based building consultancy Huthwaite and Cambridge-based Dodson Jones, which specialises in the technology and life sciences sector.

Speculation of talks between Colliers CRE and Sanderson emerged after Sanderson Weatherall, headed by managing partner Peter Dunlop, put plans to take 6,000 sq ft of offices at Bruntwood’s 57 Spring Gardens in Manchester city centre for its own occupation on hold.

It has around 40 staff in its existing Manchester office, Brook House. Speculation in the Manchester market is that the deal may been put on hold because talks began with Colliers CRE.

A spokesman for Colliers CRE said the company ‘would not speculate on market rumour’.

Sanderson Weatherall’s Dunlop denied that any talks were ongoing with Colliers CRE and said its decision not to take office space in Manchester was because of issues with the draft lease and the rent.

He said the company was ‘always looking at our business and at what we may do in the future’.