Pre-tax losses at Lord Foster’s firm almost double after ‘one of the most challenging years since practice’s inception’

Foster + Partners, one of the UK’s best-known architects, has sunk £16m into the red after a year described by chairman Lord Foster as “one of the most challenging since the inception of the practice”.

But the veteran architect put a brave face on the results, saying that a 8% rise in turnover was evidence of the practice’s “second best year results”.

According to the company’s results for the year to 30 April 2009, it made a pre-tax loss of £16.1m, down from a loss of £8.6m in the last financial year. After tax, the loss increased to £18m.

The magnitude of the loss is due to exceptional restructuring costs of £4.7m, which came after the practice was forced to downsize by about 400 employees in February.

The firm was further pushed into the red by £40m interest payable on the company’s net debt of £304.1m. Before these charges, the company turned an operating profit of £29.5m.

Turnover at Foster + Partner rose to £153.8m during the financial year, up from £142.4m in the year to 30 April 2008, indicating that business is still strong despite the downturn.

Work in the UK now amounts to only 10% of the practice’s turnover, according to the results, with almost a third of its overall revenue (£47m) coming from its work in the Middle East.

Russia, in which the practice is known to have suffered during the downturn, is not included in the results as a geographical segment but Foster’s business in continental Europe overall dropped from £45.6m to £32m in the last financial year.

In his chairman’s statement, Foster said: “I am pleased to say that the practice has reacted beyond expectation to the challenges posed by the severe downturn… in terms of creativity and the pursuit of design excellence, it could also be considered to be one of our best years.”

The firm’s highest paid director, assumed to be Foster himself, was paid £1.7m, a 41% pay-rise from last year’s wage of £1.2m.