Balfour Beatty parent BICC plans to cut the number of suppliers it employs from 15 000 to 8000 in the next 12-18 months.

Chief executive Mike Welton made the announcement as he reported a £19m fall in pre-tax profit to £51m before exceptional items for 1999.

Welton said the changes would affect all suppliers, including subcontractors and materials firms.

The exceptional items, of £434m, were for the disposal of BICC’s cables business, which is almost complete.

Welton emphasised the company’s commitment to construction, saying: “Many people are saying it’s not a very exciting sector but we beg to differ.” Operating profit for the building, building management and services business rose £15m to £26m. However, operating profit in the civil engineering arm fell £7m to £22m; rail profit fell £7m to £18m.

The group reported a record order book of £2.8bn. It reduced overheads significantly, but would not say how many people it had made redundant.