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Surveyors merge as Allied snaps up Murray and Muir

Monday 30 March 2015

Scott Wright - Herald Scotland

TWO Scottish chartered surveying firms have merged in a move which comes as the recovery of the property market north of the Border continues to gather pace.

Allied Surveyors Scotland, one of Scotland's biggest independent chartered surveyors, has acquired residential specialist Murray and Muir for an undisclosed fee.

The deal has resulted in unspecified windfalls for the Murray and Muir directors, who include Hugh Campbell, Ian Donald, Grant Williams and Martin Paul.

The four directors have moved across with 13 other staff to the Allied operation, which has 30 offices across Scotland. Murray and Muir will cease as a trading name on April 1, with the enlarged Allied operation employing more than 160 staff and 36 directors. Mr Donald intends to retire during the course of the year.

Allied, whose clients include major banks, estate agents, investors and developers, offers a broad range of chartered surveying services, including residential and commercial property valuations.

Murray and Muir, which generates the bulk of its clients from solicitor referrals, carries out residential valuations for individuals, large and small businesses, banks and building societies.

Although the transaction has been presented as a merger, it is in effect an acquisition by Allied, which turns over around £12 million annually compared with Murray and Muir's £950,000. Asked to comment on the attractions of the deal, Allied chairman Grant Robertson highlighted the strength of the 125 year old Murray and Muir's residential client base, which he said Allied aimed to build on by offering those clients a range of commercial services. And he said there was a geographical benefit to the merger, explaining that Murray and Muir's offices in Glasgow and Edinburgh would complement Allied's in locations such as Aberdeen, Dundee, Inverness, Fort William, Ayr and Dundee.

Describing Murray and Murray as the "most highly respected" residential surveyor in Scotland over the last 30 years, Mr Robertson said: "Since I left college in 1983 they have been a company I have hugely admired. They've got a fantastic client bank, established over decades. They specialise in residential, so from our perspective we're looking at that client bank and saying well we can now add commercial, residential, development, building and consultancy services to that."

The quality of the Murray and Muir staff had also been a big attraction of the deal, added Mr Robertson, noting it emerged from the downturn with its team intact and with new blood continuing to come in thanks to its graduate recruitment activity. This has come as a host of independent surveyors have been swallowed up by bigger players or fallen by the wayside as the volume of work dried up following the property crash, notably between 2007 and 2009 when the market in the central belt contracted by 65 per cent. Mr Robertson said: "Murray and Muir have got some really good partners and staff as well. Surveyors are short on quality people just now because the market has been so flat for the last seven years."

Mr Robertson added: "The one thing Murray and Muir have done very well as a niche player has been to maintain their quality of investment into graduates to bring their into their business. From our perspective the wealth of people in that business is hugely important to us as well."

Mr Robertson, meanwhile, said a key attraction for the senior Allied team had been to ensure continuing career opportunities for their staff as part of a bigger organisation. He said: "Murray and Muir are very unusual, and the reason there is such interest in this is that they have survived the downturn the residential side of our business has seen over the last few years intact and growing, which is real testament to them."

The Murray and Muir deal comes after Allied acquired McNeill Maguire & McCreath, a niche residential player in Edinburgh, in September.

Mr Campbell, Murray and Muir's former managing partner, said: "This merger is great news for our clients and staff as we will now be part of a stronger network with the ability to offer a much broader range of surveying services. Our staff will have enhanced career and opportunities within a modern and progressive firm."

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