Consultant says last month’s China U-turn on covid strategy will help revenue push this year

Gleeds is targeting another hike in turnover this year after the firm said income for 2022 will be up by close to a quarter when it files its accounts.

The consultant, which is carrying out commercial and cost management work on HS2 and Sizewell C, said revenue from its global business last year will be around £235m, up from the £190m it posted for the year before.

And chief executive Graham Harle said it was aiming for turnover of £270m this year with work in China, where it is carrying out life sciences and logistics schemes, expected to increase after that country’s recent U-turn over its zero covid policy.


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China abandoned its zero-covid strategy towards the end of last year

Gleeds has around 100 staff in China and Harle admitted: “It has affected our business and it has been challenging delivering projects. There is a lot of [the] Omicron [variant] around at the moment but hopefully after the Chinese new year [on 22 January] life will start to return to normal. Basically, they are where we were with covid 15 months ago.”

Chief executive sets example as firm continues to pay staff remaining in Ukraine

Gleeds is continuing to pay the remaining handful of employees left in its Kyiv office following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year.

Chief executive Graham Harle said around 20 staff had relocated to its offices across Europe with the firm continuing to work in the war-torn country.


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Ukraine’s capital Kyiv has been regularly hit by Russian missile attacks

It has been looking at manufacturing facilities and been asked to look at rebuilding a bombed-out shopping centre it previously worked on in Odessa on the Black Sea coast.

“A lot of firms will be looking to help with rebuilding work once the war stops,” Harle added.

In the meantime, for the past seven months one of his Ukrainian staff, her 15 year old sister and mother have been living with the Harles at their Essex home.

His 30 year old colleague is working in Gleeds’ London office having relocated from Kyiv once the war started last February.

“Rebuilding the infrastructure and energy plants over there is a massive part of the work,” Harle added. “They’re only getting around three hours electricity in Kyiv and that’s between 10pm and 1 or 2 in the morning. People getting up and going to work are doing so by candlelight.”

Harle said revenue in the UK was up a third to £130m with its cost management business, its largest in its home market, accounting for around 50% of that number. “Winning HS2 when we did in 2020 has really helped,” Harle said.

Energy and other infrastructure work had also helped drive the rise along with public sector work. But Harle said private developers were still holding back on schemes. “They haven’t gone away, they’re still there but developers are being cautious.”

Issues remained around inflation and labour supply and Harle admitted: “I don’t know where all the people the industry needs are going to come from.”

His own firm is looking to bring global staff numbers up to 3,000 from a current figure of 2,400 with Harle saying the firm is on the lookout for an extra 700 or 800 staff once it had factored in the churn rate.

“Recruitment for us is a big headache, everybody is fishing in the same pond,” he added.