DALLAS-Centex Corp. has agreed to sell its commercial construction division for $362 million to Balfour Beatty plc. The exchange is slated to be inked by March 31, pending regulatory approval.

“We will be adopting the Balfour Beatty name once the deal is closed,” a corporate spokeswoman tells GlobeSt.com. “We don’t expect anything about our structuring to change. Our headquarters will remain in Dallas and our leadership team and organizational structuring will remain the same.” Robert Van Cleave is chairman and CEO of the construction operation, which dates back to 1933 and has evolved through the years via acquisitions of family-owned regional firms in the US.

The spokeswoman says Balfour approached Centex Corp., sparking talks in earnest and due diligence just a couple months ago. “They were shopping, got interested in us and luckily it was a win-win for both,” says the Centex vice president.

Centex Construction has 1,400 full-time employees in 14 offices. In fiscal year 2006, it generated $1.6 billion in revenue and is on target to hit $2 billion when FY 2007 closes out March 31.

Balfour Beatty is the UK’s leading construction company. It’s been looking to build the same industry force in the US that it has in its homeland. Since 2000, the London-based buyer, founded in the early 1900s, has bought 15 companies, including several in the US. Last year, Balfour Beatty acquired Dallas-based Charter Builders Inc., a construction management, design and build firm. Its other US holdings are Balfour Beatty Construction and Heery International Inc., both based in Atlanta, and Balfour Beatty Rail USA, headquartered in Jacksonville, FL. And, the spokeswoman stresses, those were the headquarters cities when Balfour Beatty bought the firms, holding true to a decentralized business model.

The newest acquisition “gives us a profitable critical mass in the US in a core Balfour Beatty business and brings substantial development and growth opportunities,” Ian Tyler, the buyer’s CEO, says in this morning’s press release about the upcoming purchase.

From Centex Corp.’s perspective, it’s the latest move in 18 months of changes to simplify its corporate structuring and drive the focus to its home-building operations. In July 2006, Centex sold sub-prime lending group, Centex Home Equity Co., in July 2006 and its UK home-building company, Fairclough Homes, in September 2005. “Centex Construction’s already strong operations will benefit significantly by being part of a company focused entirely on the commercial construction sector,” says Tim Eller, Centex Corp.’s chairman and CEO.

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