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Steelwork firm Billington set for further restructuring as profits return

Steelwork contractor Billington is likely to restructure its steel stairs division after 18 months of redundancies but the rest of the business is “in growth mode”, its chief executive has told Construction News.

The firm returned to profit in the first half of 2013 – having reported losses in the equivalent period of 2012 – following cost-cutting and targeting higher-margin work.

It made a pre-tax profit of £252,000 in the six months to 30 June 2013 compared with a loss of £200,000 a year earlier.

Profit was boosted by a reduction in redundancy costs from £251,000 in the first half of 2012 to £88,000 for the same period of 2013.

Over the period of about 18 months staff numbers at the firm went from around 400 people to 290 following redundancies and moves from double to single shifts.

Chief executive Stephen Fareham said there would now be some restructuring at Peter Marshall Steel Stairs, which the group bought out of administration in 2011, but this division forms less than 5 per cent of the group’s business.

He said: “There will be some restructuring and reorganisation there. We are in the process of deciding what to do.”

Peter Marshall makes steel stairs for tall buildings and Mr Fareham said that although there were some high-rise structures going up at the moment they were not far enough along in the construction process to require steel stairs.

He said the core of the business – Billington Structures, Easi-edge and Hoard-it – was “in growth mode” and that the business had gained some work following the collapse of Welsh steel specialist Rowecord.

Billington’s revenue fell from £20.1m in the first half of 2012 to £17.2m in the first half of this year.

Mr Fareham said the company had focused on bidding for projects with reasonable margins following a period of restructuring.

He said: “We have factories in Bristol and Barnsley and we are now seeing opportunities in the South-west and Wales that probably we would not have seen [were it not for] Rowecord’s demise.

“It is a combination of that and that we set out to build our business development team in both the North and South-west and get real life back into our Bristol facility.”

Billington’s BS2 joint venture with another steel firm Bourne, which was set up in 2011 to focus on multi-storey projects in London, does not have any projects live at present.

However, the venture is “virtual” and has no dedicated full-time staff. It has also started to target new sectors including rail and energy.

On growth prospects, Mr Fareham said Billington had begun to get work across a wide range of sectors including industrial, distribution, schools and hospitals over the last few months.

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