Laing is expecting to complete the sale of its construction arm to concrete specialist O'Rourke by early June.
Sources close to the company said this week that Laing and O'Rourke have yet to agree a price for the £1bn-turnover firm, which is more than four times the size of its suitor. The sources expect this to be in the region of £50m. The figure will be finalised once O'Rourke has completed due diligence, but Laing sources insist that it will not include a "dowry".

It is expected that Laing will leave cash in the business to cover creditors. Company sources estimated that this will be at least £70m.

Laing Group was yesterday expected to announce that its construction arm lost in the region of £80m in the year to April 2001 – including a £40m write-off to cover problem contracts. Analysts expect the group to make less than £10m overall but say its fortunes will be turned around by the sale. They predict a £60m profit for 2001.

Laing sources say the write-off covers all the construction arm's loss-making contracts. "O'Rourke will be buying a profitable business," said one.

The other bidders are being kept in the background in case O’Rourke drops out

It is understood that all of Laing's current contracts will be taken over by O'Rourke.

The source added that O'Rourke was beginning to win over Laing staff. It had been reported that morale was low at Laing headquarters.

Sources close to the company also claimed that the other two bidders were being kept in the background in case Ray O'Rourke dropped out. One of these is understood to be Australian contractor Multiplex. It was unavailable for comment.