Belfast Telegraph

Construction giant Graham planning to build on success as pre-tax profits doubles

By Margaret Canning

Pre-tax profits at Northern Ireland construction giant Graham has more than doubled to £17m, its latest results show.

And John Graham Holdings also said it was still delivering "robust" performances after turnover climbed 3% to £507.9m in the year to March 31, 2016.

Its results were published as the Northern Ireland Construction Bulletin revealed an increase in output of 3.4% during the first three months of this year.

Graham operates across the UK and Ireland on projects from university buildings - including an arts building for Norwich City College - to roads.

It recently finished work on the £32m A138 Chelmer viaduct in Essex and won a deal to work on the Scottish Canals.

Its subsidiaries specialise in building and civil engineering, fit-out, project investment and asset management.

The family-run company, which is based in Dromore, Co Down, said the results were "satisfactory".

A directors' report filed with the accounts said: "Overall, our group businesses continue to deliver robust performances in a market that shows strong signs of growth, with investment in infrastructure a key focus area for both the public and private sector.

"Our four main business units provide us with a well-balanced service offering within the group, and are all underpinned by a healthy forward order book."

And Graham's directors also expressed confidence in the future. "The group has considerable financial resources together with long-term contracts with a number of customers and suppliers across different geographic areas and industries," they said.

"As a consequence, the directors believe that the group is well-placed to manage its business risk."

Closer to home, Graham has worked on the £12.4m Queen's Elms student village.

Meanwhile, the construction bulletin from the Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency (Nisra) said output was up 3.4% on the last quarter of 2015, and up 2.3% on the first quarter of 2015.

The expansion in the province was mainly due to 12.9% growth in repair and maintenance.

But there was a fall of 1.6% in housing output - echoing a drop in new housing starts in the first quarter, from 777 to 651, recorded by the National House Building Council.

However, the bulletin does not include the work carried out by Northern Ireland firms such as Graham in Great Britain, where companies compensate for a lack of work at home.

Gavin McGuire, Northern Ireland director of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), said the figures showed the progress the sector had made in the last few years. However, it also showed "what is at risk if any sense of uncertainty is allowed to linger in the wake of Brexit".

"It's hard to overstate how challenging trading conditions were for firms of all sizes in the years following the financial crisis, but in particular for SMEs," he said.

The growth in repair and maintenance was positive as it showed homeowners had the confidence to invest in their homes. But he added: "It's critical we maintain this momentum. Brexit has the potential to sap the confidence from a sector that is very reliant on sentiment, which is why the Executive must show bold leadership by committing to a programme of capital investment.

"The Finance Minister has so far suggested he is receptive to the idea, and given the importance of construction to the wider economy, we hope to work closely in making sure that the results from the first quarter of this year are the norm, not the exception."

Belfast Telegraph