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Tighter focus works for Willmott Dixon

17 Jun 19 Privately-owned construction group Willmott Dixon has posted strong profits growth in its construction and fit-out operations.

Willmott Dixon group chief executive Rick Willmott
Willmott Dixon group chief executive Rick Willmott

For the year to 31st December 2018, Willmott Dixon saw its turnover increase 4% to £1,323m (2017: £1.269m) and like-for-like pre-tax profit rise 55% to £37.5m (2017: £24.2m).

The results include Willmott Dixon Construction and Willmott Dixon Interiors but not the Fortem support services business, that is now semi-detached from the main group, or the Be Living  housing development business, a majority stake in which was sold last year to Malaysian investor EcoWorld.

By returning the focus of operations to the traditional core business, the Top 20 contractor is debt free, cash rich, with £90.5m in the bank (2017: £82.8m) and has net assets of £170.2m (2017: £142.2m).

Willmott Dixon group chief executive Rick Willmott said: “Our approach of the last two years to focus entirely on construction and fit-out is showing strong results with good earnings growth, increased margin, a solid cash position and a robust, sustainable forward order book.

“This at a time when the pipeline of work available to the country’s 50 largest contractors has continued to diminish post the 2016 Brexit referendum; caused by postponement or cancellation of project opportunities.  Being in a position of strength to weather the consequences of a further material depletion in accessible workload will remain a key priority for Willmott Dixon.

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“That is why our role on public sector procurement frameworks will be a key driver for our business; at present this gives us access to £25bn of potential workload volume. With that comes the responsibility of ensuring our work helps to sustain a healthy supply chain and I’m delighted that we are recognised as the best payer of supply chain partners across the top 20 contractors in the government’s first two statutory reporting periods, with an average payment time of 32 days, something we hope to better by this time next year.”

“We also have an eye on the future of our industry in terms of finding the next generation of people to choose construction as a long-term career, especially given the CITB’s recent annual Construction Skills Network report which predicted approximately 168,500 construction jobs will be created in the UK over the next five years. Putting construction in the ‘shop window’ of rewarding careers is a priority and that’s why we were pleased to come fourth in the Sunday Times Top 100 Best Companies to work for list, helping to give our industry a prominent place among other sectors. 

“Another way we’ll help meet the skills challenge is by reaching out to a broader pool of talent, and that includes our aspiration to achieve a 50/50 gender balance by grade by 2030.  To deliver on this, we are embracing more agile working for our teams that takes advantage of the ever greater array technology we now have for mobile working.

“Looking at 2019 and beyond, I remain proud that a key strength of the group is our purpose beyond profit ethos; demonstrated through the actions of our people to create a positive legacy where we work, where we can improve the life chances of many people in the communities where we operate.  More and more people want to work for a company that has a defined purpose to improve the general wellbeing of society and our people have shown how important this is for them with four out of five helping to deliver a community related project outside their ‘day job’ in 2018, an investment of over £2m a year in our people’s time to improve the lives of others.”

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