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26May94 UK: MILLER PLUNGES DEEPER INTO RED - MILLER GROUP.

By Bill Fishlock.Miller Group plunged deeper into the red last year after a string of losses on its civils business, property write downs and provisions for rationalisation costs.Losses at the Edinburgh-based contractor climbed to £11.85 million (1992: £2.14 million loss) after the firm faced exceptional charges of £7.5 million. Chairman James Miller said: 'Civil engineering at the moment is pretty tough.'The firm made losses before exceptional items of £4.38 million after problems on a wide range of contracts. Mr Miller pointed to changes to specifications on contracts which had yet to be agreed with clients.The civils division was also dogged by bad weather and the failure of subcontractors.Miller has faced difficulties and extra costs on the privately financed £23 million Skye crossing, where it is working in joint venture with Dywidag.Last month the company admitted it was four months behind schedule, and it faces penalties of £49,000 a week if it cannot meet a target opening date of September next year.Exceptional provisions of £7.5 million included a £3.5 million property write down, other contract provisions of £2.6 million and rationalisation provisions of £1.4 million. The group is currently in discussions to close two smaller non-core businesses.But Mr Miller said 'I think we'll recoup quite a bit of the losses.'He said Miller was a 'very prudent' company. 'We'd rather get pleasant surprises in the future.'The housing and commercial development operation increased its profits. Cash flow was strong at £20.7 million and turnover increased to £358 million from £258 million thanks to acquisitions.The company, which is bidding in joint venture to takeover the Scottish coalfield, expects a greatly improved result in 1994.Mr Miller highlighted keen pricing in the industry, and said conditions would improve 'when we contractors get some sense into ourselves. But when that will be I don't know'. CONSTRUCTION NEWS