Contractor Henry Boot has announced a positive set of half-year results, with profit up 14% writes.
The company said its success was a result of its focus on higher margin contracts in housebuilding and property development.

The Sheffield-based company also said it has become more selective in its choice of construction contracts. This follows managing director Jamie Boot's comments earlier this year that the group was resigned to making construction and civil engineering margins of less than 1%, because of heightened competition in the market.

In the six months to 30 June, the firm's pre-tax profit has risen 14% to £4.7m. This is despite turnover slipping back 8% from £107.9m in 2000 to almost £100m in the same period this year. Net asset value per share was up 12% from 265p last year to 298p.

Boot said the firm was continuing to chase a number of long-standing debtors for payment for construction contracts already completed.

The group said its property development division has been building an increasing national presence, completing major schemes in Blackpool and Bridlington.

Our construction undertakings have encountered extremely challenging conditions

Jamie Boot, managing director, Henry Boot

Its housebuilding arm has "continued to flourish", according to Boot, with completions for the half year exceeding targets, although he admitted that the need to secure quality replacement land was proving challenging due to "present planning constraints".

But despite this upturn in housebuiding and property, the firm acknowledged that its construction division was continuing to face a tough market.

Boot said: "Our construction undertakings again encountered extremely competitive and challenging trading conditions that have brought about considerably reduced activity, particularly in select tender building and civil engineering operations."

With the worsening skills shortage in construction, Boot added that his company's own construction apprenticeship scheme continued to find recruitment difficult.