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Company spotlight: Gleeson


GETTING rid of a business on which historic company ties are founded can often be traumatic.Witness the sale of Laing Construction.

But the decision by Gleeson to sell its loss-making building business, which helped found the company in 1903, was less painful than Laing's disposal.

Where Laing's move in 2000 seemed to be about ripping the guts out of the business and turning it on its head, Gleeson will still have a significant stake in construction.

Executive chairman Dermot Gleeson said building was not worth staying in because the risk-ratio reward would not improve. Had the group stuck with the business, he added, it would have become a Cinderella organisation.

It is left with house building, regeneration and an engineering business that has completed a restructuring.

The loss at building marks a return to some patchy performances.As well as engineering, the housing business has disappointed in recent years.

Mr Gleeson said the sale of building will reduce the level of risk in the years ahead. He added that the remaining businesses have a high number of partnering contracts.

But this does not guarantee an easy ride. New chief executive Terry Massingham will have to show the kind of sure touch Stuart Doughty, his opposite number at Costain, has demonstrated in steering that firm back to calmer waters.

Gleeson said its remaining businesses are performing in line with expectations.

But what the City wants is for the group to keep its nose clean.