Belfast Telegraph

Slump-hit building firm posts £7.2m loss

By David Elliott

The downturn in the construction sector kept one of Northern Ireland's oldest building companies in the red last year despite reducing its losses by over a third.

In a filing to Companies House, Patton Group reported a pre-tax loss of £7.2m for the year ended November 2011, down from over £10m in the same period in 2010.

As with many construction companies, the Ballymena firm has been hit hard by the slump in property values since 2007 which has not only dented demand for construction services but also meant a write-down of the company's own land and property assets.

In 2011, Patton Group had to absorb a writedown in its development land value of nearly £5m while it also spent over £1m in restructuring costs.

The company's results reflect what's been a torrid time for the construction sector with latest data showing Northern Ireland's building industry has some way to go to catch up with the rest of the UK.

A survey by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors Northern Ireland showed the sector here saw a fall off in activity in the three months to July with many builders having to head overseas to find new contracts.

On the upside, Patton Group's results show reason for some encouragement, once the land writedowns are set aside, with an operating profit of nearly £2m compared to a £2.5m loss in 2011.

"Overall, despite the losses incurred for 2010 and 2011, it is worth noting that the company's operating profit has improved," a spokesman for the company said.

"Thus the directors believe the company to be well placed, with a strong order book and a leaner, more efficient operating structure.

"We are committed, in this our centenary year, to aggressively pursue all new business opportunities and ensure we are structured in a way that enables us to compete successfully in the marketplace throughout the UK, Ireland and Europe."

The fourth generation family-owned company employs around 300 and was 73rd in the Belfast Telegraph Top 100 Northern Ireland Companies 2012.

It worked on the construction of the Belfast Metropolitan College at the Titanic Quarter in Belfast and the restoration of the Falls Road Library, while its fit-out team has carried out work for Primark and John Lewis stores across the UK and Ireland.

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