So much to say, so little space to say it in. Alastair Stewart, a temporary convert to cyberspace brevity, tweets his thoughts about the likely shape of the year ahead
‘Twitter ye not” might have been Frankie Howerd’s injunction had the comic lived into the age of social networking. It’s not bad advice: cyberspace and the media are being increasingly swamped with drivel and celebrity faux pas, generated by a medium supposedly promoting brevity. I have no intention of joining the legions of the damned, but - purely for the benefit of Building’s growing following among the Twitterati, and to shoehorn the year ahead into my allotted space - here is a potpourri of 140-max character “Tweets” on potential trends, opportunities and pitfalls in what is likely to be a far from dull 2012.
Overview. Economy is key. Strong demand in regulated sectors. Faltering private recovery. Public sector confused. Competition gets fiercer.
Economic Euro-lottery. Another shock from Euroland, and lending to home buyers and SMEs could shrivel further. Beware Greeks bearing bonds
Bank gauge. Sterling LIBOR (see back pages of FT) measures banks’ appetite for lending to each other and us. It’s creeping up threateningly
Housing hit. Builders face squeeze from reluctant banks and consumers. Buy-to-let and 95% mortgages reappearing: déjà vu all over again?
A bad year for absenteeism, with euros, Olympics and Jubilee. Installing big screens at work may improve attendance
New home for Tories’ top Tweeter? Homes minister Grant Shapps tipped for promotion. Will 95% mortgage and New Homes Bonus help or haunt him?
Public spending slow burn. Impact of cuts could be very mixed, subject to revision and hard to track, but state will remain a big spender
Retail in chiller cabinet? Tesco’s warning of “reduced capital spending” was a bad omen. ISG’s retail fit-out business follows with £3m hit
Office building recovery falters. Tall towers keep rising in the City, but for how long, given employment outlook in Square Mile and beyond?
Nuclear button. Mega-contracts likely from French generator EDF for Hinkley and Sizewell C. Bidders might consider a French JV connection
Power and water groups step up investment. Grid needs overhaul and connecting new power sources. Environmental pressure on water companies
Rail on a roll. Crossrail, HS2 and other major schemes boost civil engineering. Poor state of London tube likely to move up the agenda?
“Son-of-PFI” will no doubt emerge under a new guise in the UK amid further opportunities for exporting the concept to cash-strapped states
Foreign fields. Top firms poised to form new ventures in Qatar, Saudi, India, Brazil and Canada. China and Russia still look risky to many
Material danger. Commodities and basic materials remain volatile and risk appears still on the upside for metals and energy dependent goods
Margin pressure. Falling prices, rising costs, staff costs and ever fiercer competition to increase downwards pressure and “negative” bids
Clinical clients. Balance sheet strength and track record will count more than cheap bids for top clients. Expect more forensic scrutiny
Kinder contractors? Quid pro quo, winners will have to keep supply chains alive with cash injections, putting strain on their own reserves
Casualty list. Falling orders, cash outflow and suicidal bids threatens all but the big guns. Watch the cash and prioritise core clients
QSs regenerate. Like Dr Who, surveyors change spots every few years. Expect new labels like claims consultants and “restructuring experts”
Missing persons. A bad year for absenteeism, with Euros, Olympics and Jubilee. Installing big screens at work may improve attendance
Building control office in Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, Wales, dumps Twitter? 140 characters is too little sp
Alastair Stewart is a building & construction analyst at Collins Stewart Europe