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Keltbray Structures: One year into the market

Keltbray’s new reinforced concrete frame business was born following the demise of Dunne Group last year – and has had a positive start to life in a competitive market.

It’s around nine months since Keltbray launched its new entrant into the reinforced concrete frame market: Keltbray Structures.

The demolition and civils specialist saw an opportunity following the collapse of Scottish contractor Dunne Group, acquiring some of the firm’s assets including its former yard and head office in Bathgate, as well as a range of plant.

“It’s not been easy, it’s fair to say. It’s quite a competitive market out there at the moment,” says Keltbray Structures chief operating officer Andy McClafferty. Mr McClafferty moved into his new role from Keltbray’s demolition and civils business following the launch.

“We do believe with the combined model we’re offering that [we can] give the client front-end advice and surety that it might not have if it’s splitting packages up. With the demolition, the civils and the piling, it gives us a unique opportunity in the marketplace to deliver a complete solution, a one-stop shop.”

Missed target

At the time of the launch last August, Keltbray Structures CEO John Price told Construction News that the firm was targeting a turnover of around £50m in year one.

“The reality for year one is that we’ll deliver £30m,” Mr McClafferty says. “The first six months were spent developing the brand and getting the business name out there, cultivating opportunities. Q3 this year is where we’ll see the first big projects kicking in.

“It’ll be circa £30m in Y1, and moving forward we want to build that to £75m in Y2 and £100m in Y3.”

Initial projects

The firm is active on a number of projects already, of varying sizes. In Dunne Group’s native Scotland, the firm is completing a Dunne project on Waterloo Street in Glasgow, and is on site at the Riverside residential development in Dundee, building out the superstructure elements.

In London, the firm is working on a £9m project at 150 Bishopsgate for development manager Stanhope and construction manager Lendlease, carrying out the top-down construction of a four-storey basement, which will conclude in mid-September this year.

The specialist has also just won a contract at Earls Court for client Capco. “That’s to build out the basement and superstructure elements for phases two and four of Lillie Square,” Mr McClafferty says. “[It] has a value of circa £30m, starts in June and runs for a year – and we’re in there at the moment in a PCSA role.”

“The first six months were spent developing the brand and getting the business name out there, cultivating opportunities. Q3 this year is where we’ll see the first big projects kicking in”

Andy McClafferty, Keltbray Structures

Interestingly, Capco has appointed Keltbray Structures directly to act as principal contractor, a role it is also undertaking in Dundee – and which Mr McClafferty expects to emerge on other projects.

“It’s a trend that’ll continue, for all the right reasons,” he says. “It gives the client an additional six-months-to-a-year window before it goes out and buys its main contractor. We see more tenders coming out that want a complete delivery back to ground-floor slab level – so we can combine that, and it definitely makes everyone’s lives easier in that co-ordination and management process.”

The aforementioned Q3 projects are yet to be revealed, but Mr McCafferty is confident that “two or three” large schemes will come to fruition for the contractor. “We’re very active in the tendering and advice market, too, but we’re being controlled in what we look at,” he adds.

Positive outlook

Steady growth is the watchword so far then, but the initial reaction from clients has been generally positive, with that trend of wanting a completed slab to build on potentially playing into Keltbray’s hands thanks to its demolition, civils and piling businesses.

“There’s still a little bit of nervousness there [from clients], giving a 50-storey tower to someone who technically hasn’t delivered one yet,” Mr McCafferty explains. “So it’s important we get the first couple of projects out of the way.

“150 Bishopsgate and Lillie Square will give us that showroom to demonstrate what we can do, and will help us with other opportunities. It’ll take time to bed in and get into the right position in the market, to go after those larger projects.

“But in the short term, we’re very positive about Structures, and there’ll be continued opportunity there for at least two years we think,” he adds.

Keltbray Structures has certainly made clear progress less than a year after launch – with ambitions to continue growing and become one of construction’s biggest players in reinforced concrete frames.

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