Chairman Ray O'Rourke predicts turnover will top £1.2bn as group's maiden results reveal profit of £44m.
Laing O'Rourke is poised to break into the industry's top 10 with turnover for the year to 31 March 2003 expected to break £1.2bn.

Chairman Ray O'Rourke said turnover at contracting subsidiary Laing Construction would be at least £800m, and the O'Rourke business would turn over £400m.

He made the prediction as Laing O'Rourke's released its first set of joint results since O'Rourke bought Laing for £1 last year. These revealed that the group's pre-tax profit was £44.1m for the year to 31 March and turnover was £597.1m.

O'Rourke's profit for the same period last year was £5m and its turnover stood at £176.8m.

For the five months of the financial year that Laing was part of the O'Rourke group, the contractor turned over £301.7m. A year before the sale, Laing's turnover had plummeted to £700m – from £1.2bn in 1998 – due to contract losses and ongoing difficulties.

As part of the sale, O'Rourke took over more than 50 contracts, leaving the Laing group with 13 loss-making schemes. Ray O'Rourke said at the time that he wanted to increase Laing's turnover and re-establish the firm as the country's premier builder.

He said this week: "I'm very happy with the progress we've made to date. I have always had total confidence in the Laing people. They now have a focused management and more entrepreneurial freedom."

He said Laing O'Rourke had not decided whether the group would take up equity stakes in various PFI projects it was involved in, but would continue in the construction of the projects. Part of the sale agreeement stipulates that Laing Construction will carry out construction work on the Laing group's PFI schemes.

O'Rourke added that the reorganisation of the Laing structure was already paying dividends. Laing is now run on a regional basis covering northern England, Scotland, Midlands, London and the South-east, and Wales. It also has a utilities division and international arm.

O'Rourke said: "They are autonomous business units with their own boards of directors and managing directors who all report to [chief operating officer] Andy White."

He said while turnover was increasing, the group's profitability levels would be maintained by using its in-house capabilities. "We have a record of achieving more profitability. We have a can-do attitude and we don't mind managing more of the risk," he said.

The group's in-house operations include plant, pre-cast concrete, joinery, a stone company and steel framing.