Of the £5.0bn of new construction contracts recorded by the Builders’ Conference in May 2019, £3.0bn were in the house-building sector. By contrast there was just £69m of highways work awarded and £92m on the railways. Building work in the education sector was the second biggest category for new work, with £457m of contracts.
More than 440 companies picked up new contract awards during May 2019. The £5.0bn total value is a fall from the £6.0bn and £7.0bn recorded in recent months but is still up on the £4.5bn of work awarded in May 2018.
Such is the reliance of the UK construction industry on house-building work today that the top three companies in the May league table were all housebuilders – Galliford Try, Bellway and Redrow. Taylor Wimpey was in 6th place and Barratt Homes in 8th.
Galliford Try reported 12 new contract awards valued at a combined £369.3m in May 2019. £295m of Galliford Try's new work in May (80%) came from housing and £65m from offices. Its largest new contract is a £125m housing job in Enfield on the Meridian Water scheme. During the month Galliford Try also rejected a takeover approach for its house-building businesses from Bovis Homes.
Bellway Homes, in second place, started up seven new sites during the month, the largest of which is a £100m development in Hartlepool.
Redrow Homes started six new sites including a £100m scheme in Chester.
It was a £100m residential-led mixed use development for Danescroft Land that put Henry Construction into the top 10 for the month.
Education sector work helped Kier into fourth place; more than half of Kier’s £170m total for the month came from schools, colleges and universities. The largest of Kier’s 28 new contract awards during the month was a £21m deal with the University of Manchester to build the First Light Pavilion at Jodrell Bank.
Other notable contracts signed off during the month were the £52m Amazon warehouse in Doncaster awarded to Buckingham Group Contracting and Chinese contractor BCEGI’s £80m contract to build two hotels by Manchester Airport.
Builders’ Conference chief executive Neil Edwards said that within the data were some menacing omens for the industry. “There are warning signs that a potential storm could be lurking unseen just over the horizon,” he said. “The first of those signs is the huge imbalance in the distribution of work across the various market sectors. We have grown accustomed to the house-building sector delivering almost half of all new contract awards each month for the past few years. But in May 2019, house-building was responsible for around two-thirds of the recorded new contract awards: fantastic news if your company is active in the housing sector; deeply worrying if it is not.
“An even bigger warning sign, however, is a slowing in the area of new bids recorded by the Builders’ Conference. Based on the fact that it generally takes around 22 to 26 weeks for a bid to become an actual shovel in the ground, prospects for late summer and early autumn are starting to look shaky.”