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Pettifer is closing in on £100m turnover

FINANCE Change of focus boosts contractor's workload with commercial and office projects

A SWATHE of property deals should help lift turnover above the £100 million mark for the first time at Cotswolds-based construction group Pettifer.

Most of the latest reported turnover of £82.5 million came from contracting. But the work profile is changing. Pettifer has 46,000 sq m of retail development and 23,000 sq m of office projects in the pipeline.

Director Charles Pettifer said: 'The estates business could end up doing £30 million this year as there's a couple of big deals that could come off.'

The latest turnover figure is for the 18 months to September and compares with a workload of £42.5 million in the 2003 calendar year. Pettifer booked a £4 million operating loss for 2004 due to conservative accounting and investing in development but the sale of a site in Warwick netted more than £5 million.This enabled the firm, which has a 300-strong workforce, to post pre-tax profits of £1.6 million for the past 18 months - up £427,000 on 2003.

Construction provided £56.5 million of the latest turnover with jobs ranging from £1 million to £14 million.

The firm's construction management business earned £3 million. Fees were boosted by a half-share with HBG of jobs for Swedish furniture giant Ikea.

Pettifer's development arm used to work on residential jobs but has focused solely on commercial developments in recent years, letting the work to contractors such as Wrekin and Watkin Jones.

Chairman Brian Pettifer said: 'We had to make a clear decision on what direction we were going in.

'In terms of housing, we decided that, unless it's an integral part of the scheme, we'll just get the planning permission and sell the land on.

'We tender more development work than we do; it's risk management as much as anything else.'

Pettifer also runs cost consultant Clarus in joint venture with architect Building Design Partnership.

Clarus made a £175,000 profit after tax on turnover of £4.5 million in the latest results and workload should hit £10 million in the 12 months to September 2005.