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CN Briefing: Brexit; EU Referendum; stock exchange

The bookies were wrong, the pollsters were wrong and almost half the country thinks the electorate were wrong, but it’s the other half that counts today.

The EU referendum vote is decisive: Britain will leave the EU.

The markets have reacted, with both the pound and the FTSE taking a hammering as soon as the markets opened.

Housebuilders have seen among the largest share price falls, with most following the same pattern: a sharp drop when the markets opened followed by a slight comeback and then bumping along for the rest of the day at between 20 and 25 per cent lower than they closed last night.

Contractors’ share prices have shown much greater variety over the course of the day. Carillion fell fast and hard, initially down nearly 29 per cent, but bouncing back so that by mid-afternoon the drop compared with yesterday was only 6 per cent.

Kier, in contrast, fell just 7 per cent at first, rose a little, fell some more and then bumped along at around 9 per cent lower than at yesterday’s close.

Morgan Sindall meanwhile dropped just 2 per cent when the stock market opened but fell further throughout the day, dropping to 8 per cent down by around 3.30pm.

Contractors that aren’t listed may have felt a little less battered this morning – less exposed away from the glare of the markets. The same goes for clients.

But all contractors and clients are essentially in the same industry – and while share prices tell us something about investors’ expectations of the market, the view from the inside is just as important – if not more so.

Construction News has reached out to CEOs of the UK’s largest contractors. Each declined to comment, as they assess the ramifications for their businesses.

The construction industry is very much built on confidence. No one can pretend today’s result won’t change the outlook and some sectors are likely to feel the effects harder or faster than others. But a calm approach is essential.

Once we know what we are dealing with we can, well, deal with it.

Contractors are right to call on clients to send clear signals over the coming weeks and months about their future plans. But this will be hard for clients in a shifting political context.

Mr Cameron has sent a swift, clear signal today. Those that replace him and his cabinet must do the same.

Infrastructure plans, spending priorities and any changes to the status quo must be communicated as quickly as possible.

In the meantime the industry must try to hold its nerve.

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