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Balfour set to send more staff abroad

Balfour Beatty plans to send increasing numbers of UK construction staff abroad, chief operating officer Andrew McNaughton told Construction News this week.

The contractor last week revealed that it suffered a fall in UK construction orders between August and November.

Mr McNaughton said pockets of construction workers would be following professional services teams, inherited with the acquisition of Parsons Brinkerhoff, to projects abroad.

“We are seeing good opportunities for moving some core construction skills into professional services, as well as the other way round, to give us a much richer capability,” he said.

“We have several projects in the Middle and Far East and Australia where we’ve identified opportunities to strengthen professional services teams with construction skills.

“We have sent some staff already and my sense and our strategy would be that this will increase.”

Balfour Beatty’s order book remained constant at £15.5 billion, with a rise in US wins offsetting the fall in UK work.

In an interim management statement to the Stock Exchange, the company said: “In a challenging environment of government austerity and shortage of private finance, this is testament to the resilience of our business, our geographic spread, and diverse capabilities and end-markets.”

In 2010, a little over half of Balfour’s work came from the UK, with a third coming from North America and the rest from elsewhere.

It now operates in 80 countries and has recently moved into India. “We are looking at how we develop the business there,” Mr McNaughton said.

The firm is continuing to cut overheads in the UK. “The industry is facing a drive to reduce its costs of delivery but it is in the course of business anyway, and that is what we are doing.”

Mr McNaughton did not rule out UK job cuts, but said “there is nothing specific on my mind”.

The contractor said the medium and long-term prospects for infrastructure markets remained positive.


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