Mowlem has become the latest contractor to cut the amount of PFI deals it bids for as concerns grow over rising bid costs and project delays.
Chief executive John Gains said that the group would bid for fewer schemes this year than it did in 2001. "We are going to be more selective and pull back in terms of what we bid for," Gains said. "There are masses of opportunities out there – that's why we're becoming more selective."

Other contractors, such as Amec, have already told the City that they are cutting back on PFI projects, and Amey said this week that it was selling its PFI investments because of cash flow shortages. The firms say rising bid costs and delays in finalising deals are outweighing the rewards of winning the bids.

This has forced the government to look at ways of making the process faster and cheaper to ensure enough firms continue to bid for projects. Building revealed two weeks ago that the government is considering reimbursing the bid costs of firms that make it to the shortlist but fail to become preferred bidders.

Mowlem spent £6.1m bidding for PFI projects in the six months to 30 June, of which £5.2m was written off. The group expects to spend about £10m for the full year.

The firm made eight bids during the six-month period, compared to 10 bids during the whole of 2001, and it has 13 bids under development.

Gains said there was no doubt that the bidding process needed speeding up to make PFI cheaper and faster for contractors.

"Contractors are constantly talking to government about making the process simpler," he said. "Although some issues need to be dealt with, the PFI is here to stay." He added that subsidising bid costs would help keep firms interested in the PFI.

Gains made his comments as Mowlem reported a 21% jump in pre-tax profit for the six months to 30 June, from £12.4m in the same period last year to £15m. The group's turnover rose from £844m to £933m over the period.

Gains said he was pleased with the group's progress, especially the acquisition of cleaning contractor Pall Mall.