Laing O’Rourke has struck a last-minute deal to buy parts of failed concrete specialist Bison saving 450 jobs at the struggling Staffordshire firm, writes Stuart Macdonald.

The deal was signed on Wednesday afternoon and came on the same day that Bison was forced to appoint administrator Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC).

Bison had already laid off 81 of its 548 staff over the past 12 months after demand for its precast concrete products was hit by the downturn in the housing and commercial sectors.

Laing O’Rourke worked with an unnamed consortium of investors to strike a deal with PwC for an undisclosed amount and is in the process of installing a management team from its global manufacturing business to run Bison.

In its most recent accounts filed at Companies House the company made a pre-tax loss of £2.78m in the year to 31 December 2006 compared with a £2.68m profit the previous year.

Laing O’Rourke will be buying two of Bison’s three factories.

Source close to the deal

Bison blamed delays in the construction of its factory at Swadlincote, Derbyshire, and margins being less than anticipated on “a number of smaller contracts”.

A source close to the deal said: “Laing O’Rourke will be buying two of Bison’s three factories in Uddingston, Scotland and in Swadlincote as well as its two offices. However, the factory in Leeds is not part of the deal.”

Greg Ward, global head of manufacturing at Laing O’Rourke, said: “I’m absolutely delighted with this deal as it’s not every day you get to save a business. Our ambition is to turn this proud company around and really focus on making it more efficient.”

Bison contracts include a £900,000 deal struck in July to build the terracing at the new Leicester Tigers rugby club stadium and work on a 218-bed hotel at Gatwick Airport.