Carillion snaps up McAlpine, Bouygues buys Warings, Turner & Townsend floats on the stock exchange … the year is ending as it started, with a bang.
But how much of what happened was a nine-day wonder, and how much will affect us next year? Here are six stories that will stay with us long into 2008.
1 The credit crunch. Don’t underestimate the uncertainty caused by tighter lending. Figures from Savills show that commercial development declined for the first time in four-and-a-half years and share prices have plummeted. And specialists who’ve overstretched themselves during the boom may experience cash flow problems when the market hardens – so beware.
2 The OFT. The competition watchdog is keeping shtoom about what it’s discovered about the 150 or so building firms it investigated this year. But the chances are that some are looking forward to a great deal of pain in 2008.
3 Political turmoil. The government spending plans survived this year’s spending review. However, Labour’s inept political performance and the dip in the economy is denting confidence among construction’s leaders.
4 Crossrail. After only 18 years the £16bn London rail link finally got the go signal. Brilliant news for medium-term workload and a great long-term fillip for the Thames Gateway – and boy, does it need some good news.
5 The Olympics. We finally got a headline figure of £9.3bn – and that has held for the past five months, thanks to pragmatic design choices. But while the Chinese flaunt their money in Beijing, London’s designers will be guided by the no-frills-please-we’re-British school of design.
6 More mergers. It seems you can’t be a medium-sized firm any more: this week’s corporate activity is the latest in a string of deals that has created two mega housebuilders. Activity has been particularly frenetic in the QS sector, where Cyril Sweett, Baqus and T&T have taken the gamble of listing on the stock market. Others will be watching their progress with intense interest. On the contracting front, Bouygues’ move looks shrewd: Warings gives it an entrée into the world of framework deals and traditional contracting, but its reach is limited. The bets would be on Bouygues sweeping up another regional in 2008. Then there’s the news that Chinese contractors are in town …
A vintage year for Building
Many thanks to all our readers. Thanks to you, our subscriptions have nudged past the 25,000 mark for the first time, making us the bestselling construction magazine. We’re also delighted that our writers have won a clutch of awards and the website was named Business Website of the Year by the PPA. We’ll be back on 11 January – but you can keep up to date with all the news by logging on to Building.co.uk. On behalf of us all at Building, I’d like wish you a merry Christmas and a prosperous new year.
Denise Chevin, editor