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Balfour looks to USA and Europe for growth

FINANCE Contractor looks to rail electrification work in Western Europe to boost turnover

BALFOUR Beatty is planning to expand its rail operations further into Europe.

The firm operates in western continental Europe in rail electrification and this sectors could be one of the few expanded outside of existing markets.

Chief executive Ian Tyler said: 'We may look to expand outside of our specific footprint in some specialist areas such as rail.'

Further expansion into the USA is also on the cards for the firm but in terms of general contracting Mr Tyler wants to keep the business within existing markets.

Balfour operates in North America, Dubai and Hong Kong and has a small operation in Indonesia. Like many UK peers, the firm has experienced lower spending on roads.

Mr Tyler said: 'Balfour also experienced lower state spending on roads and in the short term utility framework deals will need some investment.

'The level of new spending on infrastructure at the moment is limited. It's an area where we are experiencing lower volumes.

'Utilities is going well but we have always been realistic what the long-term margin is.The first year is always difficult.

We we will have to invest.'

In Private Finance Initiative work, the firm will sell stakes in concessions in the future unless the value of the deals starts to be recognised in the construction giant's share price.

Balfour has 15 closed PFI concessions but has not taken part in the recent refinancing spree, which has seen a number of major contractors cash in.

Mr Tyler said: 'We invested in PFI for the long term and are long-term holders of equity.

'As and when the secondary market in PFI stakes starts settling down, we have to make sure that the value of our concessions is reflected in our share price.'

Unlike some smaller contractors, Balfour, which is also preferred bidder on another five PFI contracts, does not need the cash to cover bid costs for future PFI and had net cash of £311 million at the end of last year.