After announcing a 15% rise in group pre-tax profit to £24.1m for the year to 31 March 1999, chairman Sir Fraser Morrison said: “As regards acquisitions, there are a number of situations we are looking at closely at the moment. They will support our desire to grow our FM and infrastructure businesses to a broadly similar size as property.” Group turnover was up 8% to £413.7m, with property (including construction) contributing £232m, and infrastructure and FM £84.5m and £97.2m respectively.
If Sir Fraser’s plans come off, the new-look Morrison would see an equal turnover for the three businesses. “We are about providing a comprehensive service right through the design and construction process and on,” he said.
Sir Fraser said the company had gone through a “pretty nervous patch” at the end of last year because of the general economic gloom, but he added that prospects for the coming year were good.
Forward workload stands at £450m, with almost 40% of that figure earmarked for the year 2001 and beyond. “This gives us a much more predictable and higher quality base for earning,” said Sir Fraser.
He put the improved outlook down to the government’s low interest rate, low inflation strategy and improved confidence in the retail and leisure sectors, which are both growth areas for the contractor.
During the year, Morrison replaced a shortfall in roadbuilding projects with work for the water industry. It also carried out a considerable amount of work that it won on multiplex cinemas and themed pubs.
The group says 60% of work is partnered or in joint venture. It also claims that its pre-tax profit margin stands at 5.5% – “three times the industry average”.
Morrison’s international business was hit by a £1.2m loss, which it put down to a “turbulent” market in the Far East. Morrison made a provision of £2m to counteract what it called the “inevitable” extension of project timescales.
However, this loss was almost balanced by a gain of £2.7m from the sale of the company’s 49% stake in Caledonian Quarry Products in the second half of the year.