Stuart Graham tipped as favoured internal candidate to take over from Claes Björk in July 2003.
The head of Skanska's US operation is being tipped to take over from outgoing chief executive, Claes Björk.

Stuart Graham is the favourite to take the reigns at the Swedish construction group, which has a £1.4bn turnover in the UK, after the firm confirmed last week that Björk would be leaving at the end of July 2003.

A statement from Skanska said that it hoped to find a successor for the chief executive's post from within the group.

Mike Betts, construction analyst at JP Morgan, said Graham was the favourite out of the internal candidates. Betts said Graham had overseen a strong performance in the USA. The US division achieved remarkable growth in the 1990s, with turnover expanding from £200m to £3bn by the end of the decade.

Betts said: "The arm has held up profits well. Graham seems to have done a pretty good job."

Graham is one of a six-strong worldwide management team reporting to Björk, which includes former UK head Keith Clarke. Clarke joined the board in February and looks after Skanska's operations in the UK, Poland and the Czech Republic. He was succeeded as UK chief executive by David Fison.

The profit of the US arm has held up well. Graham seems to have done a pretty good job

Mike Betts, construction analyst, JP Morgan

Betts said it was unlikely Clarke would be in the running to take over from Björk. He said: "I would be surprised if it was him – he's only just joined the main board."

Swedish analysts said Björk, who is 57 and has been at the firm for 35 years, was leaving as a result of the group's recent poor performance.

Since Björk took over as chief executive in 1997, Skanska's shares have declined 11% in value. The firm has also cut 3500 jobs worldwide since last November and it wrote off at least £13m on joint venture projects in the UK last year.

Skanska posted an improved operating profit of £15.8m for the first quarter of 2002, compared with a £21.4m loss for the same period in 2001, but analysts still described the results as disappointing.