Kvaerner Construction will target small clients and government departments in the coming year, as it says large players such as London Underground, BAA and the water companies are not offering any large contracts.

The contractor announced this strategy after its parent company, Kvaerner Group, last week announced a pre-tax loss of £31.5m in first quarter of 1999.

Kvaerner Construction chief executive Keith Clarke said: “It’s a time to consolidate and improve our performance. It’s a static, steady market with too much capacity in it. There is clearly no huge amount of work coming from any one source.” The construction arm recorded a pre-tax profit of £3.8m for the first quarter of the year, a modest increase on last year. It also reported an order book of £1.52bn.

New schemes include the headquarters of the Portman Building Society in Bournemouth and retail and commercial developments in Chesterfield, Staines and Scotland. Hong Kong associate company Gammon Construction, in which Kvaerner Construction has a 50% stake, has won several road contracts and £80m of work on the Mass Transit Railways System.

It’s time to consolidate and improve our performance. It’s a static, steady market

Keith Clarke, Kvaerner

Clarke said some Far Eastern projects had experienced delays but he was confident they would work out. “Our improvement this year will come from improved performance rather than boosted sales. We are going for the less exciting realm of contracting in order to avoid the boom and bust that many contractors have experienced in the past. We are also focusing on our specialist businesses.” The construction arm showed a pre-tax loss of £1.1m in the group’s annual results, because of the way it was calculated.

The figure included the results of Kvaerner Cleveland Bridge (the steel fabrication arm, which is being sold) and its water processing company, which is no longer part of the construction business. It also ignored Gammon’s figures.