Support services group Mitie has picked up four facilities management contracts worth a total of £2m a year from the remains of failed contractor Ballast
Ballast administrator Deloitte & Touche has been in negotiations with Mitie since December, but only concluded a deal last week.

Colin Hale, Mitie's head of support services, said: "Because they are PFI schools contracts, the complexities of reaching a deal were quite enormous – such as trying to keep the headmasters happy."

Under the terms of the deal, 92 former staff of Ballast subsidiary Wiltshier FM, working in schools at areas including Portsmouth, Caerphilly and Dudley, will transfer over to Mitie. These staff have been seconded to Mitie since January as the company has been trying to keep the contracts running.

The contracts last 25 years, and are all about one year in.

Ballast has had severe cash flow problems, which intensified when its Dutch parent Ballast Nedam pulled the financial plug in October, leaving the company in administration. The move helped Nedam get back into the black in 2003, after a loss of nearly £100m the previous year.

Hundreds of jobs were lost at Ballast, including those of many of the directors. However, Doug Barratt, who had been marketing director at Ballast for 16 years, set up a property development firm last month called Woodstreet.

The complexities of reaching a deal on schools contracts were enormous – such as trying to keep the headmasters happy

Colin Hale, head of support services, MITIE

Woodstreet is in negotiations with the Duchy of Cornwall, the estate of Prince Charles, which owns more than 50,000 ha of land across southern England. Barratt hopes to secure a site in the West Country for development.

He has already agreed deals to develop two residential schemes in Herefordshire, working alongside his wife. Barratt said: "My wife has interior design experience, so that will help the business. The projection, if it works out, should mean that I am on more money this year than in my last two or three years combined at Ballast."

Barratt hopes that these projects will be completed by autumn, with work starting on site at one of them this month.

n Construction consultant NBA Quantum this week announced a pre-tax profit of nearly £175,000 for 2003, following a loss of more than £112,000 the previous year. Turnover was up 43% to £1.77m.