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Billington grows support divisions after cutting 90 jobs

Structural steel will represent less than two thirds of Billington’s business after it cut its workforce by more than a fifth, its chief executive told CN.

Steve Fareham said the firm was forced to make up to 90 redundancies at the start of the year to get to the right size for the market, ensure stability and enable it to ‘move forward’. The firm now employs 320 staff.

“It’s come at a cost – 80-90 redundancies this year – but I believe now we are in a much better place to match our resource to what’s out there in the UK construction sector,” he told CN.

This morning, Billington reported a £0.2m loss for the six months to 30 June 2012, down from £0.6m for the same period in 2011, as revenue dipped to £20.1m from £22.8m. The results included £0.3m in redundancy costs.

Asked if the redundancy programme is complete, he told CN: “It feels that way, we are actually looking in different parts of the business to recruit, particularly in the business development side of things, at new opportunities and [putting] a bit more time and effort in to looking around at what’s out there.”

While the bulk of services remains in structural steel, Mr Fareham said they will continue to improve the integrated service, to work more efficiently and “seek out areas of activity that traditionally Billington Structures would not have been involved in”.

Billington’s Easi-Edge hires out patented safety barriers to the steel and timber frame construction industries while the fast-growing Hoard-it division offers site hoardings. The firm also bought Peter Marshall Steel Stairs last year.

The CEO said that two years ago the firm was 90 per cent in structural steel, but this is now a 70:30 balance with other areas of business. Mr Fareham said:  “I think we need to get nearer 60:40 of structural steel work and other bits and pieces.”

Billington will continue to keep looking at potential acquisition opportunities, but has nothing in its sights at present, he said.

Although there has been a ‘fair number’ of casualties in the industry, Mr Fareham said he has “been surprised that the number is relatively few” and expects more to come. He said the company is seeing some more activity in industrial, small commercial, waste to energy and rail sectors, with some overall recovery anticipated from 2013.

The CEO also stressed that BS2 – the joint venture with Bourne Construction – is ‘not dead’ after its first job for the Stratford Podium project for Westfield Shopping Towns in January.

He said the jv has been bidding for a number of larger jobs around London, but has been unsuccessful.  Mr Fareham said ‘when the time is right the offering will meet the marketplace requirements’.

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