Belfast Telegraph

McLaughlin & Harvey snaps up office furniture firm SOS in Belfast

By Margaret Canning

Northern Ireland construction giant McLaughlin & Harvey has acquired an office furniture company in a major deal.

The Mallusk firm said the purchase of School and Office Supplies Group (SOS Group) in Belfast for an undisclosed sum would bolster its specialist joinery division.

And the company said that taking over SOS Group, which was founded in 1969, would also enable it to offer clients an 'end-to-end' construction service.

This month, McLaughlin & Harvey announced it had been appointed preferred bidder for the construction of Blackpool's new Winter Gardens conference centre.

The purchase is thought to be the first major deal for the Northern Ireland property sector since Lagan Construction Group snapped up H&J Martin two years ago.

McLaughlin & Harvey, which employs 800 people, also carries out civil engineering work, property development, operation of landfill sites and wholesale distribution.

It made its last major acquisition in 2007 when it bought Barr Holdings in Glasgow.

The deal comes after group company McLaughlin & Harvey Holdings declared pre-tax profits of £5.5m on sales of £427.1m.

It was set up as a group company last year and reported pre-tax profits of £1.3m in the three months to the end of December 2015.

Philip Cheevers, managing director of McLaughlin & Harvey, said the SOS deal brought the company opportunity for more growth.

"We are delighted to bring the team at SOS Group into the McLaughlin & Harvey fold as it gives us the opportunity to further grow our construction work while also targeting growth opportunities for our specialist joinery offering across the UK and Ireland," he said. "In an increasingly competitive market we firmly believe the acquisition of SOS Group will be a true differentiator and allow us to provide even better service to our client base."

SOS Group also sells AV equipment as well as office furniture - sections that will now be integrated into the specialist joinery division of McLaughlin & Harvey.

McLaughlin & Harvey has been in business for over 160 years.

In a strategic report accompanying the 2016 results, the company said it was "very encouraged" by the performance of the group during the year.

The report said: "The construction and civil engineering businesses showed a strong improvement in trading performance during the year.

"The current order book, tender opportunities and performance for 2017 is very healthy."

And it said its distribution business was still performing strongly and "current indications are that 2017 will be another successful year for the business".

And it said that its environmental business had also performed strongly in 2016.

"With the benefit of a number of long-term contracts, supported by well-invested modern infrastructure and machinery it is best placed to take advantage of market opportunities going forward," the report added.

Out of its £427.1m sales, £376.5m came from construction, £24m from wholesale distribution and £26.64m from the operation of landfill sites.

The report said the fundamentals of each division of the business were strong and focused, with the group's balance sheet showing net assets of £41.8m, supported by cash of £42.6m.

"Whilst market conditions in the UK and Ireland continue to be highly competitive across the sectors we operate in, the ongoing investment in business development, infrastructure and in our people and skills base will ensure continued success for the group going forward," it added.

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