Construction News

Sat May 15 2021

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Balfour Beatty brains trust plots course for new normal

1 Jun 20 Balfour Beatty, Britain’s biggest construction contractor, has set up a taskforce to plot a course for coping with – and perhaps exploiting – the post Covid business environment.

While no one yet knows what the long-term impact of the virus will be, whether work life will change for ever or simply slip back to how things were, many are on the lookout for opportunities.

Last month, Balfour Beatty established its New Normal Taskforce, which has already generated more than 450 ideas from across the business through an employee engagement campaign.

These ideas are being taken forward for implementation under four strategic themes: working environment; new markets and capability; digital enhancement; and rapid return to work.

News of the taskforce was disclosed in a trading update from Balfour Beatty this morning. While it remains too early to assess the full impact of the health crisis on the company’s finances, it said, the board expressed confident in its resilience.

Thanks to a strong first quarter of the year, Balfour Beatty had £452m of net cash and £375m of undrawn facilities as of 27th May 2020.  The average net cash for the first four months of the year was £464m (2019: £325m).

And with HS2 getting notice to proceed, more than £3bn has been added to Balfour Beatty’s order book, which stood at  £17.4bn on 30th April 2020 (2019: £14.3bn).

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“In the current uncertainty, the approval of HS2 provides critical visibility and impetus not only for Balfour Beatty but also for the UK construction industry and its supply chain partners,” the company said.

In Construction, most of Balfour Beatty's sites have remained open throughout the crisis with the trend now improving week to week. In April, 78% of the company’s sites were open; this rose to 83% in May. Of those now open, 17% have experienced ‘significant disruption’ due to the availability of employees, subcontractors or materials. 

The most affected areas have been Scotland, where the devolved government has kept all non-essential construction works shut, and London, where safe access to public transport has been difficult. 

In Balfour Beatty’s Support Services operations, many employees have been designated as key workers.  In some circumstances, those working on maintenance of roads, rail and power infrastructure have had an opportunity to get more than usual done.

Chief executive Leo Quinn said: “These remain challenging and uncertain times… As we navigate the group through this exceptional year, we will maintain our focus on the longer term to ensure we are ready to capitalise fully on the significant opportunities in our chosen markets."   

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