Chief executive points to stage-by-stage commitment to projects as orders fall 20%

Cyril Sweett’s chief executive Dean Webster has said that the consultancy’s order book has been weakened by clients’ piecemeal approach to projects.

The firm’s results, revealed last Thursday, showed a £100,000 dip in pre-tax profit to £2.1m for the year ending 31 March 2010. But turnover fell sharply from £78.8m last year to £65.6m. The value of the company’s order book has also tumbled, from £74m last year to £58m this year.

Sweett work

  • Cost planning and contract advice, among other services, for Titanic Quarter, the £5bn, 900,000m2 waterfront mixed-use development in Belfast, which is under construction
  • Cost consultancy on Trinity Leeds, a 90,000m2 retail and leisure project in Leeds city centre
  • The tallest building in Saudi Arabia, which will be 385m and is known as the Crystalline Tower

Webster said: “The projects are still there, but clients are committing to projects on a stage-by-stage basis. Revenue is down because of falling market costs and a falling volume of business. But in the circumstances of the market, we have produced an encouraging set of results.”

He said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the next 12 months, thanks to the rejuvenating private sector and because public sector activity has not fallen as quickly as some had predicted. Public sector work accounts for about 60% of Cyril Sweett’s revenue and Webster warned that the firm would need to adapt to cope with swingeing Treasury cuts.

“The public sector held up well, and overseas revenue grew [from 15.6% of total revenue last year to 23% this year] in both the public and private sector. Clearly we need to be cautious about public sector spending in the UK. For example, in the health sector I think we are going to see project sizes getting smaller.”

The results also showed that Cyril Sweett’s cash position had weakened, declining from £100,000 of funds to a £500,000 debt. Webster said the company was in negotiations to increase its banking facility to fund “further growth”.