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Laing O'Rourke extends its lead


With its nearest contracting rival Bovis managing to pull in only £10m of work, Laing O'Rourke tightens its grip at the top

LAING O'Rourke has strengthened its recently secured place at the head of the annual contractor's top 50 after bagging more than £190 million-worth of work in January.

With second-placed Bovis Lend Lease just sneaking into the monthly top 50, Ray O'Rourke's empire extends its lead at the top of the yearly table with an annual order book of nearly £2 billion.

The sector breakdowns show Laing O'Rourke's workload is stocked with jobs from the private sector, notably for commercial developers and house builders.The firm would also be top of the retail table but it only had two contracts classified in this sector instead of the three necessary for inclusion.

The only publicly-funded sectors where Laing O'Rourke appears are housing and health. Public housing is one of the few areas where medium-sized firms are not being squeezed out by major contractors.

Medium-sized firms Keepmoat and Headcrown subsidiary Cruden have a core discipline in social housing, which puts both in the top 10.

One of the few medium-sized firms to make the breakthrough into a top 10 is Oxford-based Leadbitter, which has barged into the public sector table.

Leadbitter was a £110 million-turnover firm that barely stretched outside of the Thames Valley back in 2002, when owner Bob Rendell realised that his business could not compete with the majors without substantial backing.

That year Leadbitter did not even feature in the top 100 of the contracts league but, after selling out to Dutch giant Heijmans, the company is firmly established in the top 50.

The latest leagues illustrate how the increasing predominance of frameworks is forcing out smaller players.

PCM's retail skills, particularly with fee-earning construction management jobs, ensure the Cotswolds-based outfit's place in the retail top 10.

Elsewhere, Ogilvie, which builds homes and uses these skills to work for big private house builders such as Barratt, squeezes into the private housing table.

The only area of the industry stocked with medium-sized firms is the industrial sector.Privatelyowned firms such as Sisk, Tolent and Dean & Dyball, which stuck around during a recession in industrial work, are being rewarded by the recent upturn in opportunities.