‘Everyone is in the same boat,’ adds Bill Hocking as firm forecasts bottom line to double next year

Galliford Try has said getting hold of people remains the biggest barrier to growth for most firms working in the industry.

The firm, which employs 4,000 people, is on the hunt for more staff but chief executive Bill Hocking admitted finding suitable people was still proving difficult despite industry initiatives to broaden its appeal.

“People is the biggest constraint in the industry,” he said. “Getting hold of them is going to continue to be a challenge. Everyone is in the same boat.”

The construction sector is just 15% female, with just 6% coming from ethnic minority backgrounds with nearly a third of the industry’s total workforce set to retire in the next decade. Tomorrow a major CLC-backed initiative to increase diversity into the industry will be launched by a coalition of construction organisations.

Hocking was speaking as the firm turned in an improved set of numbers for the year to June with revenue up 13% to £1.4bn and pre-tax profit up to £10.1m from £5.4m the year before.

bill hocking

Chief executive Bill Hocking said the firm is expecting profit next year to be at the upper end of expectations

Galliford Try said it booked a £10m exceptional cost on a new computer system it was rolling out across the business on top of the £6m it shelled out on IT the 12 months before.

Building remains its biggest business with revenue of £797m although Hocking said the firm was hit by the fallout in the wake of last September’s mini-Budget.

“Some jobs were stopped because people were spooked,” he added. Three of the firm’s PRS projects were mothballed with two coming back but a third has remained on ice.

Hocking said inflation and labour rates had calmed down in the past year with the £600m infrastructure business, which includes highways and water work, benefitting from investment to overhaul ageing facilities.

But he said getting infrastructure out of the ground in the UK still takes too long, adding planning issues and local opposition to some jobs was slowing schemes down.

The firm is not working on HS2, which has been hit by delays and more set to come, with its rail work limited to station and platform refurbishments. But some road schemes have also been hit by delays and rethinks, notably a scheme to dual the A1 in North-east England which is due to be built by Costain.

“It’s a balance between needs and democracy,” he said. “The interest [in building infrastructure] is there but getting things actually moving takes forever.”

The firm remained debt free during the period and had average month-end net cash of £135m, down from £174m. Hocking said subcontractors were reassured by the company’s balance sheet and added: “It’s very important because they know they will get paid.”

Hocking said it was expecting to turn in an improved performance this year with analysts expecting pre-tax profit to be between £24m and £28m with Hocking expecting the number to be at the upper end of predictions.