Public sector work puts contractor and housebuilder in number one spot, pushing Sir Robert McAlpine into third

The public sector was the major driver behind contract wins for the top four contractors in the monthly league in March.

Kier was the top performer overall in March with more than £300m of wins during the month. More than two-thirds of that sum was generated from public sector work, with other wins in the commercial sector and within its housing business.

The contractor and housebuilder's success last month resulted not from a few big contract wins, but a total of 77.

Balfour Beatty, Sir Robert McAlpine and Willmott Dixon also had public sector work to thank for their respective second, third and fourth positions.

Balfour Beatty was boosted by a £74m PFI schools contract awarded by Birmingham council. Wins in housing and construction helped the company to secure £236m, £118m of which was won in the public sector.

Sir Robert McAlpine won only five contracts in March but their high value put the contractor, which topped the league in February after wins in the commercial sector, in third place. Its biggest coup was a £55m PPP schools win in Gateshead.

Contractor Willmott Dixon took fourth when it won a £23m contract to build a sixth-form centre in Tottenham for the London Borough of Haringey.

The news is a boost to the industry, which was disappointed and surprised by the low level of government spending on construction last year. Although research expert the Construction Products Association had forecast public sector construction output would increase about 4% in 2005, it actually fell 3%.

The CPA has predicted that government spending will be a driver of growth in 2006, and the industry was also cheered by the prospect of anticipated growth in the private commercial sector.

Kier's persistent good performance has kept it in the top end of the annual rolling league, and this month it maintained its number two position behind Balfour Beatty, with £1.75bn of contracts under its belt.

March was Kier's most successful month in terms of contract wins in the past year.

In the separate league that also includes civils work won, Balfour Beatty snatched the top slot from Kier, which came in second. It was not a close fought battle, as Balfour Beatty won civils contracts worth £292m, almost the same value as Kier's wins overall in March.

When civils were included, three companies appeared in the top 10 that did not make it into the building top 10 - Morgan Sindall (third), Costain (sixth), and Dean & Dyball (10th).

In the annual league, the top 10 was largely unchanged as a result of contract wins in March.

Among QSs, Davis Langdon retained its position at the top of the table. In the past 12 months it has won 118 contracts worth £1.37bn. Cyril Sweett came in second, and Gardiner & Theobald was in third place in March.