Tarmac Group

Tarmac Group Limited
Successor Tarmac Holdings
Founded As the Tar Macadam Syndicate Ltd in 1903
Founder Edgar Purnell Hooley
Headquarters Wolverhampton, United Kingdom
Products Aggregates
Asphalt concrete
Ready-mixed concrete
Services Contracting services
Recycling services
Revenue £1.081 billion pounds (2011)
Number of employees
Approx 4,500
Parent Anglo American
Website www.tarmac.com

Tarmac Group Limited was a multinational building materials company headquartered in Wolverhampton, United Kingdom. It produced road surfacing and heavy building materials including aggregates, concrete, cement and lime, as well as operating as a road construction and maintenance subcontractor.

The company was founded in 1903 by Edgar Purnell Hooley after he patented the road surfacing material tarmac in 1901. The company was formerly listed on the London Stock Exchange and was once a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index before being acquired by Anglo American in 1999.

In 2010, the group was separated into Tarmac Limited and Tarmac Building Products.[1] Anglo American merged Tarmac Limited with the UK assets of Lafarge in 2013 to form a 50:50 joint venture, Lafarge Tarmac (now Tarmac Holdings). Tarmac Building Products was subsequently sold to Lafarge Tarmac in 2014.[2]


Growth of a roadstone business

The Tarmac logo in use from 1964 to 1996
Original Tarmac Head office and depot in Ettingshall
Hilton Hall: Tarmac Head Office from 1986 to 1999

The company was originally formed by Edgar Purnell Hooley as the Tar Macadam (Purnell Hooley's Patent) Syndicate Limited in 1903.[3] The distinguishing feature of the new process was that it “tarred” cheap blast furnace slag, a steelworks by-product, rather than expensive roadstone and the Company entered into long term contracts with steelworks to ensure its supply.[4]

The business was secured in 1905 by Sir Alfred Hickman, who became its first Chairman.[3] The Company remained under the effective control of members of the Hickman and Martin family until 1979. There were Hickmans as Chairmen until 1959; more significantly, Cecil Martin, the son-in-law of Victor Hickman, was appointed a director in 1923 and managing director two years later.[5] Cecil’s son Robin followed him in turn, serving first as managing director and then Chairman and Chief Executive from 1971 to 1979.[6]

Tarmac was first listed on the Birmingham Stock Exchange in 1913 and then the London Stock Exchange in 1922.[7] During the 1920s and ‘30s Tarmac had to cope with national strikes, recession and periods of intense competition. Nevertheless, the Company gradually expanded its geographic coverage (particularly in the south-east), increased its production of paving slabs and moved into road surfacing as well as supply. As with so many companies in the construction industry, World War II increased the demand for Tarmac’s services, notably for surfacing the large numbers of airfields being built or modernised. By the time of its half centenary in 1953, Tarmac was processing over 2 million tons of slag a year, its road surfacing had developed into a significant civil engineering business, and its Vinculum subsidiary “had become one of the major precast concrete undertakings in the country.”[8]

Under Robin Martin’s leadership, Tarmac moved from being an important regional force to a national roadstone and contracting business. Acquisitions played a major role in Tarmac’s growth. While leading the roadstone division, Martin had been responsible in 1959 for the acquisition of local competitor Tarslag and Crow Catchpole, which gave it a greater presence in the south east.[9] In 1964, now group managing director, Martin acquired key quarrying assets, including Cliffe Hill Granite, Rowley Regis Granite and Hillhead Hughes.[10] In 1968 Martin engineered the three way merger between Tarmac, Derbyshire Stone and the Scottish Asphalt company, William Briggs, creating the country’s “largest roadstone and construction group”.[11] The group was briefly known as Tarmac Derby but the Derby name was later dropped.[12]

Tarmac becomes a housebuilder

Further acquisitions were to come. Permanite, Britain’s biggest roofing-felt manufacturer, and Limmer, a quoted asphalt company, were bought in 1971,[13] while the 1973 purchase of Mitchell Construction (which had foundered on the Kariba Dam) strengthened the construction division.[14] However, the acquisition which was to radically change the direction of Tarmac was McLean Homes bought at the beginning of 1974.[15]

McLean was run by Eric Pountain,[16] a one-time estate agent who had sold his own housebuilding business to McLean, later taking over as managing director in a boardroom coup. McLean had been bought to strengthen Tarmac’s own poorly performing housebuilding division and the enlarged operation, now run by Pountain, was producing around 2,000 houses a year.[17]

Pountain had ambitions to become a national housebuilder and by the end of the 1970s McLean was building 4,000 houses a year and a substantial contributor to group profits. However, there were problems elsewhere in the group. In 1976 Tarmac had bought the old-established contracting firm of Holland, Hannen & Cubitts; this was followed by contract provisions of £16m in its Nigerian subsidiary.[18] The head of the contracting division was dismissed and the finance director resigned. The boardroom pressure on Martin increased and in 1979 he was forced out to be replaced by Eric Pountain as the new group managing director. Whereas Martin had created a national roadstone group, Pountain was to create the country’s largest housebuilder.[17]

By the end of the 1980s, UK housebuilding was accounting for half of group profits but it was not the only activity to have been expanded.[17] An alternative profits centre had been built up in the USA, starting in 1984 with the staged acquisition of Lone Star Industries; by the end of the decade Tarmac was operating across seven US states. UK construction had also grown and Tarmac was involved in such prestige projects as the Thames Barrier and the Channel Tunnel.[19]

1990 to 2014

However, the expansionary nature of the group did not leave it well placed to face the recession of the early 1990s. In particular, the housing division continued to invest heavily in land even though the market had peaked, leading to provisions of £132m in that division alone. Like his predecessor before him, Pountain was forced to step down as chief executive to be replaced by Neville Sims, previously in charge of construction. Inevitably, the emphasis moved away from housing in favour of construction.[17]

Housebuilding was progressively reduced in size until 1995 when Tarmac announced that the division would be sold. Later that year, Tarmac and Wimpey announced an asset swap whereby Wimpey acquired all of Tarmac’s housing and in return Tarmac received Wimpey’s construction and minerals divisions. The downsizing continued and in 1999 Tarmac demerged its construction and professional services businesses under the name Carillion. Months later, Tarmac, now back to its roots as a roadstone and road surfacing business, accepted a bid from Anglo American Mining.[17]

In August 2007 Anglo American announced it was to sell the business[20] but in February 2008 went on to report that it was putting the sale on hold.[21] In June, Tarmac Iberia was sold to Holcim.[22]

In 2010, Anglo American sold Tarmac's European concrete aggregates business to Eurovia; it also sold its Polish concrete products business to the private equity firm Innova Capital.[23] A few months later, the French concrete products business was sold to the private equity firm Foundations Capital.[24]

In 2011, Anglo-American announced a proposed joint venture with Lafarge that involved combining both companies' UK aggregates businesses.[25] The merger, which excluded Tarmac Building Products, was completed in March 2013 following receipt of necessary approvals from the UK Competition Commission, forming Lafarge Tarmac.[26] Tarmac Building Products, the last part of the business still wholly owned by Anglo-American, was acquired by Lafarge Tarmac in April 2014.[27]


Tarmac Group consisted of Tarmac Building Products, Tarmac Middle East and 50% of Lafarge Tarmac.

Tarmac Building Products

Tarmac Building Products was the UK's largest supplier of heavy building products. It supplied aircrete blocks, aggregate blocks, bagged aggregates, mortar, screeds, sports surfaces, TermoDeck, foundry sands, grouts, plasters, renders, bagged cement and bagged lime. It also offers bespoke production and contract manufacturing.

Tarmac Middle East

Tarmac Middle East was one of the largest and leading suppliers of aggregates and asphalt to the Middle East construction industry. It had interests in Primary Aggregate & Road Base Materials, Armour stone, Wet-mix and Asphalt Products and Asphalt & Road Base contracting services.

Lafarge Tarmac

Lafarge Tarmac was a 50:50 joint venture between Lafarge and Anglo American. It was the leading UK construction materials company comprising cement, aggregates, ready-mixed concrete, asphalt and contracting businesses in the United Kingdom.

Major projects

Projects undertaken by or involving Tarmac Construction prior to demerger of that business in 1999 included the Preston Bypass completed in 1958,[28] the St Albans Bypass completed in 1960,[29] the Ahmed Hamdi Tunnel in Egypt completed in 1981,[30] the Thames Barrier,[31] the Joint European Torus[32] and Drax Power Station[32] all completed in 1984, the Merry Hill Shopping Centre completed in 1985,[33] the Conwy Road Tunnel completed in 1986,[34] the Albert Dock refurbishment completed in 1988,[35] the Channel Tunnel completed in 1994,[36] the Medway Road Tunnel completed in 1996,[37] the Swindon Designer Outlet in Swindon completed in 1997, [38] Canary Wharf tube station completed in 1999[39] and the Jack Lynch Tunnel in Ireland also completed in 1999.[40]


  1. "Our history". Tarmac Building Products. Retrieved 30 January 2015.
  2. "Completed acquisition by Lafarge Tarmac Holdings Limited of Tarmac Building Products Limited" (PDF). Competition & Markets Authority. Retrieved 30 January 2015.
  3. 1 2 Hooley, Edgar Purnell (1860–1942)’, by John Sheail Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, first published September 2004
  4. Ritchie, p.12
  5. Ritchie, p.40
  6. Ritchie, p.93
  7. Ritchie, p.38
  8. Ritchie, p.60
  9. Ritchie, p.68
  10. Ritchie, p.74
  11. Ritchie, p. 77
  12. Ritchie, p. 80
  13. Ritchie, pp. 82
  14. Ritchie, pp. 84
  15. Ritchie, pp. 88
  16. Obituary: Sir Eric Pountain Daily Telegraph, 27 October 2003
  17. 1 2 3 4 5 Wellings, Fred: Dictionary of British Housebuilders (2006) Troubador. ISBN 978-0-9552965-0-5,
  18. Ritchie, pp. 92
  19. Ritchie
  20. "Tarmac up for Sale". Building. 2007-08-03.
  21. "Anglo American puts Tarmac sale on shelf" Guardian, February 2008
  22. "Anglo sells Tarmac unit to Holcim for $230m". Engineering News. 2008-06-13.
  23. White, Garry (2010-02-16). "Anglo sells Tarmac's Continental businesses". The Telegraph.
  24. "Fondations Capital acquires Tarmac's French and Belgian building materials operations". AltAssets. 2010-05-05.
  25. Tarmac and Lafarge unveil plans to create new UK joint venture Daily Mail, 18 February 2011
  26. "Lafarge Tarmac starts trading after deal approved". Global Cement. 7 January 2013. Retrieved 25 March 2013.
  27. "Completed acquisition by Lafarge Tarmac Holdings Limited of Tarmac Building Products Limited" (PDF). Competition & Markets Authority. Retrieved 30 January 2015.
  28. Preston Bypass Opening Booklet
  29. "The Motorway Archive M1 London - Yorkshire Motorway, M10 and M45". iht.org. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  30. "From the Suez Canal to the A9". Highway Engineer. November 1981. Retrieved 4 June 2012.
  31. Environment Agency
  32. 1 2 Ritchie, p. 100
  33. Ritchie, p.108
  34. "The Motorway Archive. The North Wales Coast Road. A55". iht.org. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  35. Ritchie, Page 99
  36. EuroTunnel at Structurae
  37. Rochester Bridge Trust
  38. "Swindon Designer Outlet" (Press release). 6 December 2010.
  39. Schmidlin website
  40. "Immersed Tunnel Techniques 2". google.com. Retrieved 15 March 2015.


External links

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