Chief executive attempts to downplay firm's vulnerability after half-year results

Scott Wilson played down reports the firm was vulnerable to a takeover bid as it posted a 5.3% pre-tax profit dip in its half year results this morning.

Hugh Blackwood, chief executive, told Building the engineer considered itself an “acquirer rather than an acquiree” and saw strength in staying independent.

He said: “We believe we can add value by remaining independent and most of the people in the market are aware of that.”

However, he refused to say whether or not the firm was in discussions with anyone about a potential takeover.

The comments came as the firm posted better-than-expected results for the six months to 1 November. Group revenue fell 8% to £159.3m, down from £173.2m last year and adjusted pre-tax profit slipped to £10.8m from £11.4m in 2008.

Adjusted operating profit increased by 4.1% to £12.5m and adjusted operating margin rose to 7.3% from 6.7% last year. The firm has maintained its order book at £280m.

The company saw significant growth overseas, with a revenue rise of 16.7% to £42.4m. Cash from abroad accounted for 34.6% of turnover and Blackwood said this could rise to 50% within five years.

The thrust overseas is being partly driven by the anticipated decline of the UK public sector, which currently accounts for around 32% of group turnover. Blackwood said: “We have been through this before and we don’t think it will be the end of the world. We are looking to replace some of that revenue with international business.”

Blackwood also refused to rule out further redundancies, though he said he did not expect cost-cutting on the scale seen over the last year. Around 600 staff have been axed in the past twelve months.