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Revealed: Top specialists' revenues near £9bn as margins soar

The industry’s leading 70 specialist subcontractors turned over nearly £9bn combined last year, according to this year’s exclusive CN Specialists Index.

The research, published exclusively on Construction News today, reveals that the industry’s largest specialist subcontractors posted a combined turnover of £8.81bn, up from £8.57bn recorded in the 2016 Specialists Index.

The CN Specialists Index 2017

Get the full financial breakdown plus analysis and opinion from the industry’s leading specialist subcontractors in the 2017 CN Specialists Index here.

Specialists also saw average margins rise, with the top 10 firms in the seven main sectors reporting an average pre-tax profit margin of 4.7 per cent – up from the 3 per cent average in last year’s Index.

The Index covers the top 10 contractors across seven sectors: building envelope, concrete, demolition, ground engineering, M&E, scaffolding and steel.

Demolition was the stand-out performer, with its top 10 firms now boasting a combined revenue of £931.7m and an average pre-tax margin of 8.9 per cent. This compares with £710.9m and 7.1 per cent respectively in last year’s Index, with combined revenue growing up 31.1 per cent – the highest of any sector.

Only one contractor in the demolition top 10 posted a pre-tax loss, while the sector also saw two new entrants break into the top table.

The concrete sector also reported significant improvement, with top 10’s combined turnover rising to £1.78bn – up 29.5 per cent compared with £1.37bn in the 2016 index. Average profit margins have also risen to 3.6 per cent in this year’s concrete table, up from 0.7 per cent, with seventh-placed AJ Morrisroe & Sons boasting the highest margin at 7 per cent.

Building envelope firms enjoyed a similarly strong year, with total turnover among the top 10 rising 16.2 per cent to £746.1m – up from £642.2m. 

However, the Index’s largest sector by turnover, M&E, reported a drop in both top-10 turnover and profit margin, with total revenue down 16.1 per cent and margins falling to 1.0 per cent from 1.7 per cent in last year’s Index. The M&E top 10 now turn over a combined £2.93bn – down from £3.49bn.

In the scaffolding sector revenue and average margin remained relatively flat, with the top 10’s turnover increasing by 0.9 per cent compared with the 2016 Index, while average margin edged up to 5.5 per cent from 5.4 per cent.

Severfield cemented its place as the UK’s largest steel contractor with a revenue of £262.2m, up 9.5 per cent year on year, while in ground engineering, Bachy Soletanche lost first place.

Coming soon: The CN100

Look out for the annual Construction News CN100 later this month, revealing the definite ranking of the industry’s top 100 contractors, backed by comprehensive analysis and exclusive interviews with some of the industry’s leading companies.

Revealed: Top specialists' revenues near £9bn as margins soar

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