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Makers recovery ups Keller's 2004 profits

FINANCE Social housing market prompts Keller to look at Makers expansion in 2006

KELLER'S social housing and maintenance arm Makers will look to expand again in 12 months' time.

South-east-based Makers crashed into the red in 2003 and Keller's management briefly toyed with selling the business before pushing through a restructuring that produced a return to profit last year.

Keller chief executive Justin Atkinson said: 'There is a lot of potential in social housing but we will only go outside London once we are re-established there.

We need another year.'

Makers, which retreated from the Midlands a few years ago to work from Brighton up to Northampton using a London base, provided 64 per cent of Keller's UK turnover in 2004.

Around 30 per cent of the workload last year at Makers was social housing, with the remainder coming from concrete repairs, car park work and M&E jobs.

Keller also restructured elsewhere in Europe last year, laying off 30 staff in Portugal at a one-off cost of £400,000 to bring this business back into profit in the second half of last year.

By the start of next month the firm will also have cut 40 staff from Germany, where the market remains subdued but Keller has made a profit.

The United States provides the bulk of group workload but the strong pound against the US dollar cost Keller £2.3 million last year and rising steel prices remain a problem.

Keller was paying about 21p per metre of extruded steel strand for its post-tensioning business at the start of 2003.This figure had doubled by the start of this year.

Mr Atkinson said: 'The amount of steel being produced and used in China could go up or down and I expect some volatility in prices this year.'

Keller has a 10 per cent share of the US market for drilled shaft work. Keller's posttensioning operation Suncoast is expanding heavily into Arizona and California, which has the second highest level of housing starts of any US state.