While the search for a replacement takes place, Kier chairman Philip Cox will act as executive chairman, working with finance director Bev Dew and chief operating officer Claudio Veritiero.
An early candidate to replace Haydn Mursell is Andrew Davies, the former Wates chief executive who was about to take over at Carillion a year ago but it went into liquidation before he had chance to join.
Philip Cox said: “The board believes that, following the completion of the recent rights issue, now is the right time for a new leader to take Kier forward to the next stage of its development. The board would like to thank Haydn for his contribution during eight years on the board, firstly as finance director and then as chief executive. On behalf of the board, I would like to wish him every success in the future.”
The board was evidently swayed by pressure from certain shareholders, including Woodford Investment Management, who reportedly wanted Mr Mursell out.
Kier also issued a trading update today that sought to reassure investors that a bulging order book and the recent rights issue would ensure that the company does not disappoint in 2019.
Kier said that it was on track to meet expectations for the current financial year. Its Infrastructure Services and Buildings businesses now have 100% visibility of the forecast revenue for FY19 and an order book of more than £10bn.
Although underwriters were left picking up the tab for the rights issue, Kier’s balance sheet still got a £250m injection, reducing net debt to £130m by 31st December 2018, compared to £239m at the start of the year.
Kier said that this reflected “the acceleration of supply chain payments” as well as the rights issue proceeds.
The average month-end net debt for the six months ended 31st December 2018 was £370m, as compared with £410m for the six months ended 30th June 2018.
Kier will announce its half-year results on 21st March 2019.