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Severfield Rowen and William Hare continue to dominate the steel contractors table, accounting for almost 60 per cent of the total turnover across the entire top 10.

William Hare’s 18 per cent rise to £182.2 million represents the lion’s share of growth. Its performance will be boosted by its market diversity and overseas growth, particularly in the Middle East, while Severfield Rowen continues to benefit from its operation in India, where it says opportunities are “becoming more numerous”.

Most other firms saw revenues decline, while pre-tax profit fell 67 per cent collectively across the top 10, with BHC and Caunton posting the only profit growth. Rowecord meanwhile fell into loss, according to its latest accounts for the year to June 2011.

Click on table to enlarge

Top 10 steel

Cleveland Bridge saw the biggest drop in turnover across the top 10. A spokesman tells CN the firm expects a further dip this year as market conditions continue to bite, but was optimistic about future prospects, particularly from activities overseas.

He adds that the UK market is “certainly a lot more rosy than it was 18 months ago, and I think it’ll get rosier”, with higher levels of tendering and public works with steelwork elements.

Cleveland Bridge is close to signing off on a £35m Sri Lankan deal, and is running operations in Dubai and Saudi Arabia.

Former top 10 steel company S Robinson & Sons entered administration late last year, blaming cashflow problems and a rapid decline in orders.

British Constructional Steelwork Association director of market development Alan Todd says that although enquiry levels were good, robust competition was leading to shorter order books, wafer-thin margins and reductions in profits.

But he says competition has put UK firms in contention for overseas contracts if they could muster the resources to set up shop in emerging markets like South America or export a specialist product.

“Even with the markets only at 50 to 60 per cent, very few main contractors have gone out of business,” he adds. In such conditions, payment is a serious issue, “especially when people are going in at very thin margins - if any margins at all”.

Mr Todd expects conditions to worsen slightly this year due to falls in education and health work offsetting growth in private industrial and commercial activity, with improvement in 2014 after a flat 2013.

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