Business barometer Less than 10% of firm’s income came from commercial sector in April

Wates was catapulted to the top of the league table for April after winning £342m of work, almost double the amount of Balfour Beatty, its nearest rival.

But, in a depressing indication of the industry’s current fortunes, less than 10% of of this came from the commercial sector. Even so, it is worth pointing out that the total value of contracts won during April by the top 30 contractors was £1.9bn, which is significantly higher than the same period last year when the top 30 won £1.4bn. It was also higher than April 2008, when £1.8bn of work was won.

Andy Brown, an analyst at stockbroker Panmure Gordon, said: “It will be the end of the year before things pick up in the commercial market. There’s been a bit more activity in London at the moment, so by the fourth quarter we should see more positive data.”

But in a week when cuts in public spending and the reduction of the nation’s massive budget deficit have been at the centre of the power sharing discussions between the parties that hope to form the next government, Whitehall remains the principal source of income for the industry.

More than £200m of Wates’ haul came from three social housing jobs in London. Balfour was boosted by more than £100m worth of work for Network Rail.

Within the top 10 earners last month, only Rok made more from commercial work than the public sector in April. Rok’s commercial haul for the month was boosted by winning a £29.5m bottling plant in Fife for drink company Diageo. 

The other big commercial winner was Laing O’Rourke, which jumped from 27th place to 12th after scooping a £55m contract from Stanhope for a retail development in the capital.

Balfour remains in pole position over the year with £7.3bn worth of work, way ahead of rivals Skanska, Kier, Laing O’Rourke and Morgan Sindall, which are all below £3bn.