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Engineering firm back in black as contract margins grow

By Margaret Canning

Published 29/10/2015

Vaughan Engineering Group in Newtownabbey, the company that built Victoria Square shipping centre, has said it is back in the black for 2015
Vaughan Engineering Group in Newtownabbey, the company that built Victoria Square shipping centre, has said it is back in the black for 2015

Vaughan Engineering Group in Newtownabbey has said it is back in the black for 2015 thanks to improvements in industry conditions, after suffering a £1m loss a year earlier.

The company was set up in 1955 by Albert Vaughan and now employs 400 people across its operations. And the business’s finance director Gavin Vaughan said it had turnover of over £60m in the year ending March 31 2015, and pre-tax profits of £250,000 — though its results have not yet been filed at Companies House.

That’s an improvement of 16% on last year’s turnover of £51.45m.

The company’s last registered accounts said its earlier loss was the result of “contract disputes and delayed final account agreements and payment”.

But the directors added that they believed “all such problem contracts have been fully provided for...and expect turnover growth and return to profitability in 2015”.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Vaughan said: “Last year we had a lot of legacy contracts from the recession which were affecting us with poor margins, and there were some contract disputes. 

“But most of those are resolved, and margins on newer work are getting better.”

The firm has offices in Edinburgh, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Manchester, as well as its Co Antrim headquarters. 

Mr Vaughan said that “85 to 90%” of its workload was in Great Britain — and that it was not a new development for the company to be reliant on business outside the Province. 

“We have had an office in Scotland since the late 1960s. But relying on work outside Northern Ireland isn’t sustainable in the long-term.

“We need to see the market improve in Northern Ireland, and that will take decisions to be made on capital expenditure.”

The company specialises in mechanical and electrical work and has worked on schemes in Northern Ireland including the Grand Opera House, Parliament Buildings at Stormont, Royal Victoria Hospital and Victoria Square Shopping centre.

Along with joint venture partners, Blackbourne Integrated, the company is also working on the construction phase of the £30m Ulster Hospital mechanical and engineering project.

And in London, the firm is working on the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) in the centre of the city, as well as Wates House, which is owned by University College, London (UCL).

The business includes sister companies Brankin Engineering, a ductwork manufacturing and contracting business, and residential developer Vaughan Homes, which is building houses in Lisburn and Carrickfergus. 

The group recently marked its 60th anniversary with a celebration at Titanic Belfast.

Mike Vaughan, group managing director and brother of Gavin, said: “The last decade has been very challenging for the construction sector and it has been through our company’s ability to adapt that we have been able to survive and grow the business.”

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