It was good to see Balfour Beatty return to profit, with turnaround specialist Leo Quinn sounding chipper in his chat with Construction News.
Over the last five or six years, it has been striking to note the lack of schadenfreude from the rest of the industry when discussing the travails of the UK’s largest contractor.
As it lurched from one profit warning to another, fended off a merger with Carillion and senior staff came and went, it became hard to see how the story would end positively.
But Mr Quinn has come in and taken tough and sometimes unpopular decisions internally to get Balfour Beatty back on track.
As with Wates – boosting cash, profit and revenue in its results this week – and Kier’s positive half-years, it’s good to see some strength returning to the biggest contractors. With Article 50 set to be triggered next week and Britain nearer to quitting the European Union as a result, the UK’s construction businesses will need diligent leadership during uncertain times.
Article 50 will provoke years of uncertainty but also opportunities, especially in improving the way the construction process works through technology and innovation.
But output forecasts have been cut for the coming years and it was reported this week that the net cost of imported construction materials from the EU rose more than 15 per cent to £5.7bn in 2016. With cost inflation, a break from EU ties and the possibility of workloads dipping, business leaders will need to avoid falling into familiar traps and remember the pitfalls of the downturn.
Bidding at low margins to secure revenue has been a mistake made by Balfour Beatty and many large contractors in recent years. While all CEOs are saying they’ve learned their lessons, which will hold fast in the face of uncertainty?
Celebrating a special occasion
Last night, we hailed the best specialists in the industry at the 13th Construction News Specialists Awards in London.
A record number of entries were sifted through by more than 60 industry leaders on our judging panel. Our judges love the process, as do the CN team who sit in on the finalists’ presentations.
We get to hear amazing stories from innovators in the supply chain overcoming technical and logistical challenges throughout the UK, and judges often want to employ the companies they’ve assessed in their own supply chains (and not just the winners).
I’d like to thank our judges for their time as well as the companies that entered, and to offer huge congratulations to all our winners.