Firm wants to focus on ’augmented organic growth’ and PPP markets in the US and Canada

Balfour Beatty has ruled out large acquisitions as it focuses on “augmented organic growth” and PPP markets in the US and Canada, according to chief executive Ian Tyler.

“We have an organic growth strategy. From area to area, there will be opportunities to augment that growth, also to allow that growth to happen slightly more quickly with bolt-on acquisitions. What we don’t have is a pile of cash that we’re looking to invest anywhere we can,” said Tyler after the release of Balfour Beatty’s 2010 results last week.

The company’s last major acquisition was in September 2009, when it bought professional services firm Parsons Brinckerhoff in a deal worth £380m. Since then Balfour Beatty has only taken over much smaller firms, such as the Canadian business Halsall, which it bought for £33m in October last year.

Balfour reported a healthy cash balance last week, averaging net cash throughout the year of £435m, compared with £283m in 2009. According to Tyler, the firm will not use the cash for a game-changing acquisition, but to target the US and Canadian PPP markets. Tyler said: “We see opportunities, not just for pure PPP but also the alternative financing market, increasingly coming through, particularly as state finances are tight. There is also wider development in the major infrastructure PPP market, the highway schemes and the rapid transit. That is a long burn process.”

These growth markets are not expected to have a major impact until the second half of 2012, when infrastructure projects should kick in.

Tyler said: “I don’t see the market falling off a cliff between now and then, but the point at which we see especially the major power projects coming on-stream will take us into 2013 and beyond.”

Balfour released a relatively solid set of results for 2010, which showed revenue up 2% from £10.3bn in 2009, to £10.5bn in 2010. Its pre-tax profit rose from £265m in 2009, to £319m in 2010 - an increase of one-fifth.

After allowing for exceptional items and amortisation, profits were actually down by nearly 30%, to £187m. The biggest expense was £31m for the “acquisition, integration, reorganisation and other costs” of consultancy Parsons Brinckerhoff, which Balfour Beatty said it had now successfully integrated.

In its results presentation, Balfour broke down its future order book and said it has secured work worth £7.2bn for 2011, £3.7bn for 2012 and £4.3bn for 2013 onwards.