Our Contracts League table for May 2016 brings together data on almost 700 new contract awards with a combined value of £3.69bn won by 374 contractors. This is as close to the established norm of £4bn per month as makes no real difference (what’s £300m between friends?) and, taken at face value, merely maintains the post-recession status quo.
Dig a little deeper, however, and the signs that the industry is in a holding pattern are plain to see. It is now usual for each of the Top 10 companies in our Contracts League table to have topped the £100m mark in new contract awards each month. In May, only the top seven managed to pass that threshold.
Laing O’Rourke and Galliford Try claimed the number one and number two slots respectively, but they did so with a combined haul of 28 contracts. This relatively large number of modestly-valued contracts throws into stark relief the absence of major landmark contracts these days.
And when it comes to work being put out to tender – the closest thing the industry has to a crystal ball for predicting future prosperity – figures have fallen from the £4.5bn monthly average of this time last year to a relatively paltry £1.8bn in May 2016.
This has had a significant impact on the Contracts League table for the “rolling year” total, which has fallen from a high of £56.6bn at the end of December 2015 to £50.41bn today, a fall of just over 12%.
Against this background, Laing O’Rourke emerged victorious in the May 2016 Contracts League, bagging a total of nine contracts worth a combined £207.7m.
Key among these is the £76.2m contract to build a new 192-unit residential tower for Imperial College, London. The 20,000m2 building will be erected on Imperial’s White City Campus in north London.
Taking second place was Galliford Try, which won the additional distinction of pocketing the most contract awards this month; its haul of 19 new projects has a combined value of £202.3m. Like Laing O’Rourke, Galliford Try has scooped a couple of nice student accommodation jobs, together worth £102m.
One is the £62m Park View Student Village for Newcastle University; the second, worth £40m, is for a nine-storey block containing 770 bedrooms at Godiva Place, Coventry, for Coventry University.
Skanska – a constant presence among the Contracts League Top 10 – took third place with just two contracts worth a combined £165m. Largest of these is a £153m contract for the refurbishment and repair of London’s Waterloo Station for client Network Rail.
Balfour Beatty, meanwhile, secured four new contracts worth a combined £152.6m to slide in at number four in the League. Its haul included a £130m deal with Highways England to build a controversial 3,600-vehicle lorry park on the M20 motorway near Dover.
This facility, which is expected to be operational by the summer of 2017, is designed to prevent the traffic chaos of last year, when thousands of trucks heading for the Continent were parked on the motorway for days (a process dubbed “Operation Stack” by Kent Police) as a result of strikes by French ferry workers.
To those companies occupying the seven top places in the Contracts League, May 2016 looks pretty much like a continuation of the prevailing trend. For the wider industry, however, this month’s EU referendum and an end to the interminable in/out hokey-cokey of recent weeks cannot come soon enough.
Neil Edwards is chief executive of The Builders’ Conference