The UK contractor plans to build a significant operation in the US after buying Centex Construction

Balfour Beatty has acquired US-based Centex Construction for $362m (£184m).

In a bold strategic move the contractor announced it would use the model of its UK business to establish a major presence in America.

Ian Tyler said: “Centex Construction is a high-quality building company which gives us profitable critical mass in the US in a core Balfour Beatty business and brings substantial new business development opportunities.”

Revenues at Centex for the nine months to 31 December 2006 were $1.65bn (£840m) while operating profits stood at $27.5m (£14m).

Centex has an order book of $5.6bn (£2.85bn), and has a firm foothold in the growing markets of Florida, Texas, Washington DC and North Carolina. Centex’s parent Centex Corporation sold the construction arm to focus on the US housing market.

The company is also strong in the military housing sector where it has an order book of over $750m (£382m).

Balfour Beatty already has a presence in the US markets through Heery International its professional services business and has established a presence in the US private finance market through Balfour Beatty Capital.

Tyler said the move will generate significant earnings per share and would allow Balfour Beatty to access significant tax benefits.