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Alfred woos City

FINANCE Contractor increases share dividend by 10 per cent and promises a good 2005

A BULLISH Alfred McAlpine shrugged off a raft of exceptionals to buoy the City with news that it was increasing its dividend and the promise of a better year ahead.

Underlying pre-tax profits went up 6 per cent to £38.2 million, with its business services driving group profits along with a 35.6 per cent rise to £17.4 million.

The firm said it was increasing its dividend by 10 per cent for the second year running and has a record order book of £3.2 billion.

The share price rose over 5 per cent on the news as the City ignored exceptional charges of £27 million and a further £8 million of goodwill, which shredded profits from £30.6 million last time to just £3 million.Turnover went up 7 per cent to £931 million.

The bulk of the charges, £14.5 million, have been laid at the door of two construction jobs, which Construction News understands to be an office scheme in Guildford, Surrey, for developer Tilebox and the A13 improvement in east London for Transport for London.

McAlpine said it would not name the projects but capital projects director Matt Swan admitted: 'Clearly we got some things wrong but we are not working in a risk-free environment.'

The firm has also allocated £6.5 million for unnamed issues following the purchase of Ryan Utility Services in 2001. Finance director Dominic Lavelle conceded its due diligence 'was not as rigorous as it could have been' The firm will announce a replacement for former infrastructure services boss Peter Carolan, who left last December.The division, which is being reorganised at a cost of £6 million, is currently headed by Phil Price.

But the firm has found a replacement for former business services boss Billy Allen, who left after taking a sabbatical.Scotsman Craig McGilvray, who, like Mr Allen, joined McAlpine following its acquisition of FM firm Stiell in 2002, takes over and joins the board.