Parent company Newarthill makes £53.4m pension scheme writedown

Sir Robert McAlpine’s parent company Newarthill has posted a third straight pre-tax loss, after a £53.4m pension scheme hit overshadowed improved profitability for its contracting business.

In results filed at Companies House, Newarthill posted a £43.2m pre-tax loss for the year to October 2016, reduced from pre-tax losses of £50.5m and £67.8m the previous two years.

The latest loss was caused by a £53.4m exceptional writedown connected with reassessing the firm’s pension liabilities.

Without this, the firm returned to an underlying pre-tax profit of £10.2m, after finishing a raft of loss-making problem jobs.

Sir Robert McAlpine completed all its problem jobs during the financial year and incurred “all of the substantial costs”, the accounts said.

The firm confirmed it was targeting expansion in frameworks, public sector work and civil engineering and expects both turnover and profit to grow “in 2017 and beyond”. Revenue was up 9% to £869.6m, up from £799.7m.

Sir Robert McAlpine itself has been without a chief executive since last July, when Tony Aikenhead suddenly stepped down from the role after less than a year.

A Sir Robert McAlpine spokesperson said the search for a replacement “has progressed well and we will be making a statement in due course.”

During the results period, Sir Robert McAlpine won a framework deal for redevelopment of British Land’s Broadgate complex in the City of London, completed work on the Victoria Gate shopping centre in Leeds for Hammerson, and started work building a new retractable roof for Wimbledon No 1 Court (pictured).

Newarthill’s accounts added: “The United Kingdom construction market remains highly competitive and the central London market in particular has added uncertainty following the referendum result on EU membership.

“Despite this, with the completion of our legacy contracts the 2016 results show a dramatic improvement over the previous year.”

Gavin McAlpine, non-executive chairman of Sir Robert McAlpine, said: “We are progressing our strategy to focus the business around growth, diversification and resilience…

“With legacy projects behind us, the business will continue to develop and grow, built on the strong foundation of engineering excellence that remains at the heart of the business.”