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Balfour Beatty maintains top spot dominance

Balfour Beatty tops January contracts table but Glenigan data shows slowdown in commercial and rental sectors. By Steve Menary

Balfour Beatty tops the monthly contractor’s top 50 for January but signs of a slowdown in the commercial and industrial sectors are emerging.

The UK’s largest contractor booked 23 deals worth a total of £637 million into its order book during January, according to Emap Glenigan.

This haul ranged from a £14 million office scheme in London for developer Halladale to a £73 million residential and commercial job in Swansea for Gwalia Housing Association.

This total was enough to keep Balfour ahead of Costain and Skanska, which took second and fourth spots after sharing an estimated £678 million deal to widen a stretch of the A14 for the Highways Agency.

The gap between Balfour and second-placed Bovis Lend Lease at the top of the annual table has been stretched, but all the positions in the top six of the league remain unchanged.

The positions at the top of the commercial, retail and industrial tables also remain the same with Bovis Lend Lease, Sir Robert McAlpine and Bowmer & Kirkland leading the way.

How long all three firms remain on top is likely to be influenced by the state of the economy over the next few months.

Private sector slowdown

The clients in all three sectors are predominantly from the private sector, where investors are getting increasingly edgy over the returns from commercial property investment.

According to the commercial development activity index produced by NTFC Research for consultant Savills, business sentiment has slipped to a new low and development activity is contracting.

The survey recorded anecdotal evidence that falling property values are denting investors’ confidence and this is likely to have a big effect on future workloads in the commercial, retail and industrial sectors.

Emap Glenigan’s own data shows orders for the combined commercial and retail sector down a third to £631 million in January and average spending has fallen back since the end of 2007.

Building warehouses and sheds has long been a lucrative business for firms such as Bowmer & Kirkland and the UK interests of Dutch outfit Volker-Wessels, which is ranked second in the industrial table.

The top 10 for this sector is also one of the few populated by growing small-to-medium sized contractors.

Norwest Holst and Morgan Sindall are third and fourth respectively, but ambitious smaller firms, such as McLaren - fifth with £88 million-worth of industrial work - Winvic and Marbank are also in the top 10.

A weak start to last year means that industrial orders are still rising, according to Emap Glenigan, and totalled £178 million in January 2008 due to a couple of major projects.

To download a set of tables of the top contractors and clients in different UK sectors, simply click on the resource box on the right hand side of the page.