Belfast Telegraph

On a diplomatic mission - the Northern Ireland fit-out firm bound for Budapest

Company in £2m Foreign Office deal

By Margaret Canning

A Northern Ireland fit-out firm has been appointed by the Foreign Office to refurbish its Budapest Embassy in a deal worth £2m. Gilbert-Ash Fit-Out will start work on the project - its fortieth for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) - in July.


The Foreign Office has bought the former Dutch Embassy in the Hungarian capital to convert it into the British Embassy.

Parent company Ards Holdings, which is based in Belfast, had turnover of £73m and pre-tax profits of £144,000 in its last accounts. The firm employs 119 people.

Andrew Whitten, general manager of Gilbert-Ash Fit-Out, said: "We have worked alongside the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for many years and that partnership has opened up fantastic opportunities for our teams to work all over the world.

"To secure the Budapest British Embassy project and begin work in our fortieth country with one client is a great achievement and demonstrates our ability to export our services successfully to new markets."

The 40 deals have involved Gilbert-Ash carrying out work for embassies, consulates and British High Commissions in locations as far afield as Australia, Dubai, Cuba, Mongolia, Sri Lanka and Japan.

Gilbert-Ash said its relationship with the FCO went back 25 years. Its fit-out team has just finished work on the British Consulate in Marseille, France.

It's also about to hand over a £5.5m refit at the British High Commission in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

It will also include offices of the European External Action Service (EEAS) - the EU's diplomatic service.

Mr Whitten said embassy work was a prestigious niche: "UK embassies and consulates are very high profile projects as they represent the 'public image' of the UK in the host country.

"Many of the Embassy buildings occupy prestigious historical buildings and therefore require specialist skills in heritage and restoration."

Earlier this year Gilbert-Ash finished work on two major projects in London, worth a combined £44m. The project at Fetal Medicine Research Institute on Harley Street involved partially demolishing and refurbishing existing terraced houses, connected to the new three-storey medical centre behind.

In Savoy Place, Gilbert-Ash has also completed the headquarters of the Institution of Engineering & Technology (IET).

And it built a new Premier Inn hotel at Worcester Cricket Club.

Gilbert-Ash has been one of many major construction firms in Northern Ireland which have obtained lucrative contracts in Great Britain to compensate for limited work on home turf.

Deals last year to refurbish the National Army Museum and the Bartlett School of Architecture led the company to extend its premises in London.

But closer to home, Gilbert-Ash also carried out restoration work on the Crown Bar in Belfast city centre, a National Trust property.

It repaired floors, ceilings, stained glass windows, tiling and booths in the well-known venue on Great Victoria Street.

Belfast Telegraph