The top 50 companies – which account for 85% of turnover and pre-tax profit in the top 100 – enjoyed a combined profit hike of 14% to £1.9bn, their best performance since the late 1980s. On the other hand, profit was still 40% lower than in 1988 in real terms (taking inflation into account), a good indication of how far the market is from the kind of disastrous boom we had then. Margins for the top 50, although improving to 5.1% (compared with 4.6% in 1998), are still well down on 1989's dizzying 9%.
But, although profit soared, turnover for the top 50 nudged up only 6% to £37.2bn, mainly because major contractors are downsizing and bidding for less work. Many housebuilders, too, have shunned volume to chase margins.
The hunt for higher margins has led many of the top contractors into facilities management. This, along with strenuous efforts to avoid loss-making projects, helped lift pre-tax margins for contractors in the top 50 from 1.3% to 1.7%.
The top housebuilders lifted pre-tax margins, too – from 11.6% to 12% – helped by rampant house price inflation in the South-east.
The largest UK construction company last year was once again Amec, even though its turnover fell £200m to £3.19bn. Wimpey was once again the biggest housebuilder, raising its turnover from £1.4bn to £1.52bn.
For ranking purposes, contracting includes building, civil engineering, M&E, building services and facilities management Where contracting is "other", the company is primarily involved in repair and maintenance, term maintenance, facilities management, building services or M&E Any omissions from the tables are because companies have been unable to provide data Where no profit is given in the contractors' FM table, turnover is included under contracting in the top 75 by turnover The following companies were omitted from the two salary tables because of incomplete information: Kvaerner Construction, Bovis Construction Group, HBG/Edmund Nuttall, Jarvis, Allen, J Murphy & Sons, Wainhomes, Cala Group, RG Carter Holdings, Sunley Turriff Holdings, David McLean Group, Ringway Group, Llewellyn Management Services, McNicholas, Wrekin Group, Melville Dundas, Lorne Stewart and Carillion. Tables complied by Martin Hewes, Hewes & Associates, 01428-641518.
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Top 100 contractors and housebuilders by turnover