More of the same - July 2018 Review & Commentary of Construction New Orders from Builders' Conference

02 Aug 2018

The monthly volume of UK construction contract awards during 2018 has become so predictable that there’s a danger of complacency.   But for now, The Builders’ Conference CEO Neil Edwards is happy to look over another month of unprecedented stability.


Don’t you just love the British?    A nation seemingly obsessed with the weather; but give us several months of uninterrupted sunshine and we start praying for rain.   Us Brits, it seems, are at our happiest in an atmosphere of uncertainty and unpredictability.


Which possibly explains the feeling of growing unease that accompanies the news that, for the seventh month in succession, the BCLive league table has once again topped the £4 billion mark in new contract awards during July 2018.   Indeed, stripped of industry peaks and troughs and with the heatwave showing no signs of abating, it rather makes you wonder just what is being discussed around the industry’s water coolers and coffee machines at present.


If the numbers that make up the BCLive league table have become almost tedious in their predictability, then the names at the top of the table are in danger of becoming a permanent fixture.   Seven months in and only one company other than Kier Group and Wates Ltd has topped the table during 2018.   So it will come as no surprise to any BCLive league table watchers out there that Wates has topped the table once again; or that Kier Group has come in a close second.


Wates Ltd claimed top spot thanks to a seven contract haul during July 2018 worth a combined total of £295.5 million, the largest of which is for the construction of a new office block at Axis Square in Birmingham for client LCR.   Valued at £150 million, that block will accommodate 10,000 people and will include a public square, cafeterias, restaurants and retail units at the ground floor level.


Kier Group took the number two spot, bagging an impressive 19 new contract awards during the month worth a combined £288.6 million.   The largest of these is a £90 million contract to build a new distribution warehouse and hub at The Causeway in Bedfordshire for client B&M Retails Ltd.


Another major warehouse project in nearby Leicestershire – this time for Roxhill Developments – catapulted Northants-based Winvic Construction to the heady heights of fourth spot on the BCLive league table.  That contract, one of six won by the company during July, is valued at £50 million.


One of the capital’s largest and most prestigious contracts – The Thames Tideway scheme – continues to bear fruit, this time for Laing O’Rourke that saw the former leap into third position on the BCLive league table.   Valued at £205 million, that joint venture contract requires the construction of a major new sewage tunnel at Chelsea Embankment.


ISG claimed fifth spot on the table this past month with a £138.5 million haul of five contracts that included an £88 million new build business park for DB Symmetry in County Durham.


FM Conway came in sixth thanks to a £130 million road refurbishment and repair contract for the London Borough of Croydon.


Although London once again topped the £1 billion mark split across 147 individual contracts, both the North West and West Midlands regions helped redress the geographic balance, with new contract awards valued at £804.9 and £451.6 million respectively.


Housing was yet again responsible for almost a third of all new contracts awarded during the month; 186 individual contracts worth more than £1.503 billion.   The education sector delivered 193 new contract awards worth a combined £691 million while offices and roads recorded new contract awards worth £691 and £384.6 million respectively.


All of which is good news.   But as an industry, UK construction cannot afford to be complacent.   The government, it appears, is focused almost exclusively upon Brexit at present, so decisions relating to large-scale infrastructure projects seems unlikely in the short term.   An ongoing skills shortage and – more recently – a brick shortage all point to an overheating in the marketplace and lends further credence to rumours of a rise in interest rates in the very near future.   And, of course, we all know that the current stability cannot last forever.


The hope, therefore, is that UK construction companies have taken advantage of the sunshine to mend their collective roof, just in case there is a downpour on the horizon.


Quick review of BCLive table for July 2018


404no companies were detailed as winning new contracts during July 2018


684no new construction orders are detailed on BCLive


Wates Ltd secure overall top spot with £295.5 million of new work


New order winners in £1M to £5M category was Kier Group with office throughout the UK & the £1M and under category went to Engie UK Ltd


Kier Group secured the most number of new construction orders in the month with 19no.


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