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15Oct92 UK: BRITISH FIRMS LOSE OUT IN OVERSEAS WORK SCRAMBLE.

Overseas orders won by British contractors last year crashed 11 per cent to £2,205 million, according to Department of Environment (DoE) figures.The lacklustre performance compares with a 25 per cent increase in the value of work won by all of the world's international contractors.Firms working outside their home market won contracts totalling US$150,980 million (£88,812 million) in 1991 compared with $120,180 million (£70,694 million) in 1990, according to a recent survey by American construction magazine, Engineering News-Record.The DoE figures show that the brightest spots for British firms were in the Far and Middle East. The other markets where British firms have traditionally been strong - North America, Africa and the Pacific - have declined.Even in Europe, British builders managed to hold on to only the same amount of work - £105 million - won in 1990, but there was an increase, from £68 million to £83 million, in the value of work awarded to them within the European Community.Bruce Boys, managing director of John Laing International, said: 'I cannot really compare the DoE and ENR figures, but for us both sets are correct inasmuch as we have increased our international turnover by more than 25 per cent and this has come from the Far East and Middle East.'Obviously what the DoE figures show is that many contractors are in the wrong markets.' He added that instead of being in the US and Africa, firms should be in the growth areas of Asia and the Arab countries.British firms showed most improvement in the Far East, with contracts worth £545 million in 1991 compared with £353 million in 1990. In the Middle East, the resurgence shown in 1990 continued last year with £245 million in new orders.