Profitability across the global firm also fell but chief executive confident of international growth

Global piling contractor Keller has said the UK is its most difficult market, as its business in the country slumped to a £2m operating loss for the first six months of the year.

Profitability across the global firm also fell significantly, with pre-tax profit down 69% in the first half from £11.3m to £3.4m.

Speaking to Building about its half-year results, Justin Atkinson, Keller chief executive, said the UK was “its most difficult region”.

The firm has reduced its headcount in the uk but would not say by how much

The firm admitted in a statement to the City that it had reduced its headcount in the UK, partly accounted for by the closure of its Yorkshire yard to consolidate this with one in Coventry. Atkinson refused to say how many people it had lost.

Strong margin pressures in the US had also hit the firm’s profitability globally, Atkinson said.

But he added that the UK outlook had improved thanks to the recent award of a £37m contract on the £700m overhaul of Victoria station and an expectation of winning work on Crossrail. He said the UK business made up just 5% of its revenue and he was confident of continued revenue growth internationally.

Atkinson’s comments follow last month’s purchase by Vinci of UK groundworks firm Roger Bullivant, following a halving of Bullivant’s pre-recession revenues.

Keller’s turnover internationally jumped 10% from £496.9m in 2010 to £545.5m for the financial year up to 30 June 2011. Growth of 23% across the contractor’s developing markets and Australia contributed to the increase.

Atkinson said the firm’s Eastern European operations had also recorded record profit and revenue.