Predictably Unpredictable - October2017 Review & Commentary of Construction New Orders from Builders' Conference

01 Nov 2017

In a month in which the wider media finally caught on to the true state of the UK construction nation, the BCLive league table recorded an unexpected but nonetheless welcome rally.   The Builders’ Conference CEO Neil Edwards looks over yet another surprising set of monthly figures.

Armed with the statistics for the first three quarters of 2017, the wider media finally cottoned on to what the BCLive league table had been illustrating pretty much since the year began; that, with the notable exception of August, the landmark month in which the first tranche of HS2 contracts was let, the industry has been on a marked downward trajectory.   For the past few weeks, news headlines have been filled with talk of slumps in construction’s GDP and of a widening downturn in demand.

But amidst news reports that would have sent many scurrying to if not batten down the hatches then at least stock up on canned goods for the implosion ahead, construction once again proved that its most predictable characteristic is its sheer unpredictability.

And it will come as no surprise to experienced industry watchers that as the doom-mongers and naysayers were sounding the alarm bells, the sector rallied unexpectedly to register one of its best months since the beginning of the year.

The BCLive league table, which has struggled to top the £3.5 billion monthly total for most of the second half of the year soared to more than £4.6 billion, restoring it to early 2017 levels.   While the BCLive league table has recently grown accustomed to recording new contract awards from around 300 individual companies, this month’s total included contributions from more than 350.   And although Greater London rediscovered its mojo to top the £1.1 billion mark, several other regions – notably the North West, West Midlands, South West and Eire – also enjoyed a boost this past month to make that rally – temporary and fleeting though it might be – even more universally welcome.

Top of the pile in October 2017 with a nine contract haul valued at a combined £645 million was BAM.   The largest of these is a £500 million contract award for a new build hospital on the St James Hospital Campus in Eire which is to be undertaken by BAM UK together with BAM Kildare.

A large hospital contract also helped propel John Sisk & Son into second position on the BCLive league table for October 2017.   The West Midlands-based company won the £190 million contract award to build a new clinical building at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital.

With 12 contract wins worth a combined £198.8 million, Galliford Try took the number three position, thanks in no small part to a £52 million contract award for the construction of 440 new dwellings for Legal & General Group in Walthamstow, East London.

In a month in which all of the BCLive league table Top 10 exceeded the £100 million mark, Sir Robert McAlpine took fourth position with a £192 million combined total that includes a £100 million new build office for HM Revenue & Customs in Cardiff, South Glamorgan.

Perhaps the most telling statistic on the BCLive league table for October 2017, however, is the fact that the giant Kier Group took the Number 5 position with a 22 contract haul worth a combined total of just over £184 million.   Given that the largest of these was a £24 million order for 261 new dwellings in Chesterfield for Homes & Communities Agency, the average value of Kier’s other 21 contract awards was less than £8 million.

Interserve, which took ninth position with a cumulative £133.4 million spread across ten separate contracts, experienced a similar fate which must surely carry with it greater demands on staff and resources than a single £100+ million contract award therefore training & apprenticeships should be a key priority for the construction industry

Given the unpredictability of UK construction, this could – and, most likely, will – change next month.   And, in a year in which the UK took the decision to quit the European Union and the US elected Donald Trump as President, even the unpredictable seems somewhat less than surprising

Quick review of BCLive table for October 2017

369no companies were detailed as winning new contracts during October 2017

665no new construction orders are detailed on BCLive

BAM secure overall top spot with £645 million of new work

New order winners in £1M to £5M category was Morgan Sindall & the £1M and under category went to Keepmoat Group

Kier Group also secured the most number of new construction orders in the month with 22no

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