Confident Irish contractor describes profit plummet as a ‘temporary blip’ and points to strong order book

Irish construction company John Sisk has blamed uncertainty surrounding the Iraq war for its 54% drop in pre-tax profit.

Sisk, which is privately owned, reported a fall in profit from £3.5m in 2002 to £1.6m for the year ending December 2003. Turnover fell from £136.5m to £105m.

The company expects strong growth this year with UK turnover for the business predicted to reach £170m after the acquisition in January of Bristol-based contractor Bideem, which has an annual turnover of £33m.

Sisk said that the acquisition of Bideem provided a solid platform for the firm to grow in the Bristol and Cardiff areas.

Pierce O’Shea, managing director at Sisk, said that the company was not going to overreact to the lower than expected volume of business.

He said: “We viewed the Iraq war and the dip in the private and hotel and leisure sectors as a temporary blip and focused on a positive strategy for the future.”

He added that the order book for 2004 was strong, with many delayed projects coming back on stream and the company winning a number of repeat contracts.

We will continue to focus on core areas of expertise

Pierce O’Shea, John Sisk MD

He said: “We will continue to focus on core areas of expertise and developing repeat business from a national client base. We have increased staff levels to meet our workload.”

Sisk also plans to double Bideem turnover to £60m over the next three years. The contractor is believed to have considered buying other firms in the region, including Cowlin, Pearce and Midas, before plumping for Bideem.

O’Shea said Sisk had decided to retain its final salary pension for existing employees. The firm aims to eliminate its pensions deficit in three years.

The managing director of a rival regional contractor agreed that Sisk had weathered the storm and was now in a strong position to progress with its expansion across England.

He added that the whole industry had been hit by a slowdown in commercial markets caused by the war. He said: “It was unfortunate that these markets, such as retail and hotels, were core business for Sisk. But they have been very prudent in this period.”

Sisk’s principal activities are the construction and refurbishment of commercial, industrial and institutional property.