Waiting for the Bounce

Anyone expecting the traditional February bounce-back of construction activity will have been sadly disappointed. Yet the industry remains on an even footing, according to The Builders’ Conference CEO Neil Edwards.

It might be the coldest month weather-wise, but February is generally the month in which the chill of the Christmas and New Year break begins to thaw to warm the hearts of construction professionals across the land. In 2015, the BCLive league table recorded 818 individual contracts with a combined value of £4.193billion. In 2016, a combined total of £3.873billion was split amongst 804 individual contracts. And so we started the month with high hopes of another bounce-back in new construction orders. It didn’t arrive.

Instead, the BCLive league table once again crept gingerly over the £4 billion mark with 317 companies winning 554 new contract awards to maintain an even keel established almost a year ago. For those that appreciate stability and predictability, the month of February will have delivered all that their hearts desire. But for those of us that have read about the UK economy being the fastest-growing in Europe, the fact that this has largely failed to be reflected in construction demand is as frustrating as it is mystifying. While other parts of industry are enjoying the “benefits” of a weaker pound, the normally reliable barometer of UK economic sentiment remains fixed in place registering only average demand and average activity.

In a month of wearisome predictability, it will come as no surprise that housing once again accounted for the lion’s share of new contract awards. It is also a shock to no-one that London and the South East were once again the leading lights in construction activity.

Yet despite an overall theme of “more of the same”, the top of the BCLive league table saw a tussle for supremacy that went down to the wire. With just hours of the month remaining, Kier Group, ISG and Morgan Sindall were all vying for the top spot with less than £40 million in contract awards separating them.

But they were all pipped to the post by Brookfield Multiplex which clinched a £700 million contract for mixed use development in Nine Elms, London and with it the number one spot on the BCLive league table.

In second place was Kier Group with an 11 contract haul worth a combined £254.9 million. The largest of these is a ££200 million project for Offices in Liverpool

A £150 million contract award for fitting out offices in Shoe Lane London contributed to a £239 million combined total for ISG that propelled the company into third place. In so doing, the company also wrested (perhaps temporarily) the “highest number of contracts per month” crown from Morgan Sindall’s head securing a haul of 15 contracts (as did Keepmoat in 16th place on the league table) against Morgan Sindall’s 14. Those 14 contracts – the largest of which was an £85 million contract for the Overbury division of the Group – secured the company the number four spot on the BCLive league table in a month in which only seven of the 317 companies on the month’s list secured new work valued at more than £100 million.

The month of February ended with the news that the massive HS2 rail project has been granted royal assent, paving the way for the creation of some 25,000 jobs during construction as well as 2,000 apprenticeships. We can only hope that this long-awaited news marks the start of a much-needed and belated bounce back.

Quick review of BCLive table for February 2017

  • 317 no companies were detailed as winning new construction orders during February 2017
  • 554 no new construction orders are detailed on BCLive
  • Multiplex secure overall top spot with £700M of new work
  • New orders in £1M to £5M category, Keepmoat came out on top & in the £1M and under category Robert Woodhead Ltd from Nottinghamshire were the winners
  • ISG plc secured the highest number of new construction orders in the month with 15no

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