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'Tis the season for fear and trepidation

Zak Garner-Purkis

In a normal year, the start of December is when everything begins to wind down.

Big decisions are put on hold until January and we in the media find ourselves with less and less to write about.

But 2018 has been far from normal.

The explosive news has kept on coming, from historic contempt-of-parliament votes in the Commons to £264m contractor cash calls.

Balfour Beatty certainly showed it was unafraid of making a big calls ahead of the festive period, as CN revealed this week.

Documents seen by CN showed the contractor had begun merging the location and management of its ground engineering, living places and Balvac business units and had entered consultation on redundancies.

Meanwhile over at Crossrail and HS2, their chairman Sir Terry Morgan was also making a bold move by pre-emptively broadcasting his own resignation while predicting further budget hikes on the £15.4bn London line.

This all comes against a backdrop of an industry-wide credit crunch, with banks increasingly reluctant to service the huge debt piles of many industry heavyweights.

In the aftermath of last week’s rights issue announcement, Kier followed Laing O’Rourke by publicly bemoaning the difficulties contractors are now in when it comes to borrowing.

None of which bodes well for the coming weeks, particularly when you consider Kier’s half-year is scheduled for 31 December, with an update to follow in the first weeks of the new year.

Interserve will also be scrutinised over Christmas – a time when the number of working days shrinks and payment terms are notoriously lengthened.

And of course, we have the small matter of the neverending Brexit deal fiasco that will no doubt continue to clog up the airwaves well into 2019.

Just as December usually provided a quieter end to years gone by, January had traditionally marked a slow and steady period as the industry clanked back into life post-Christmas.

But what happened last January will have changed attitudes across the supply chain, putting many industry firms on heightened alert this time around.

While something on the scale of Carillion is unlikely, the industry’s mindset towards the festive period has undoubtedly changed – all of us are on our toes.

Readers' comments (2)

  • Happy Christmas Zak!

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  • I think big calls or overhead cuts as you should have stated in BB have replaced the morning bacon roll,

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