Kier kicked off the week with a trading update containing two points of interest beyond its cautious optimism and the trumpeting of 52 framework deals
The first was confirmation that chief executive John Dodds would go next year.
The Kier way has been to appoint someone from within its ranks who has experience of running several divisions, which many think points to Ian Lawson, managing director of the firm’s support services arm – Kevin Cammack at Cenkos Securities has him as the 5-2-on favourite. The other name being mentioned is Paul Sheffield, head of the construction division. He’s four years younger than his colleague and some are saying he could be Lawson’s successor.
A story in the Times on Tuesday said Tony Douglas might be a contender. It wasn’t clear who thought this, but sources close to the situation recently played down the likelihood of the newly available former chief operating officer of Laing O’Rourke joining the firm.
The other point of note in the update was its £18m fine from the Office of Fair Trading. It said it would write the charge off in its half-year results to the end of December 2009, but added that it is still considering an appeal. It has just over a week to let everyone know how much of a stomach it has for a fight with the OFT.
Elsewhere, Morgan Sindall put out a reasonably upbeat update. It went down well in the City and the company’s shares climbed 11% to 610p on Tuesday afternoon.
And on Wednesday Balfour Beatty issued a robust update that sent its shares up 1.7% to 268p in early trading – although this is still more than £1 lower than at the time the Parsons Brinckerhoff acquisition was announced in September.
Howard Seymour at Numis explained: “Investors got wary that it was going too far down the Atkins consultancy route – wrongly in my view. The message is slowly getting through that this was a good deal but it’s against a background of public spending fears.”