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Construction firm Graham hands back furlough cash after profits boost  


Michael Graham, executive chairman of Graham

Michael Graham, executive chairman of Graham

@Press Eye/Darren Kidd

Michael Graham, executive chairman of Graham

Northern Ireland construction giant Graham has said it has repaid £1.3m it received under the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) for preserving jobs during the pandemic.

The business has published financial results for group company John Graham Holdings for the year to March 2021.

The report shows that it received £6m in total under the CJRS, also known as the furlough scheme, repaying £1.3m.

Graham, which is based in Hillsborough, Co Down, said trading throughout the year had been “resilient” as it reported an increase of 7.4% in pre-tax profit to £12.1m for the year to March 2021. 

But overall revenue of £808.1m was a 5.3% or £45m decrease from the 2020 financial year.  However, looking ahead, its pipeline of work was worth £1.7bn.

And staff whose pay had been cut during the early months of the crisis had been reimbursed in the present year for what they’d lost.

A strategic report filed with the accounts said a number of staff who could not work from home or whose sites were unavailable had been put on the CJRS.

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However, it stopped using the furlough scheme in December when all its work had resumed.

And since operations had started to improve from July onwards, it then repaid furlough grants which had been given from that month.

Staff numbers had fallen from 2,188 to 2,111 over the year, with the company’s pay bill going from £116m to £108m.

The business said cash at bank and in hand had also risen by 63% to £118.9m over the year, which had allowed it to improve supplier payment statistics.

It added that all business units — building, civil engineering, interior fit-out, facilities management and investment projects — had stayed profitable over the year.

But it said that the initial onset of the pandemic had created uncertainty and a drop in productivity as the industry adjusted to restrictions — leading to a £100m fall in forecast revenues between April and June.  

The company added: “In an effort to protect the employment of 2,200+ staff, Graham availed of the CJRS.

“As soon as market conditions stabilised, the contractor was positioned to repay the furlough grants it received from July 1 2020.”

It added: “Recognising the contribution of its staff cohort, both on site and in support services, all of the employees who had their salaries reduced (April to June 2020) in order to further insulate the business were repaid in this financial year.”

An additional thank you payment was also made to every member of staff.

Michael Graham, Graham Group executive chairman, said the results were “positive” and that staff had made a collective effort which had been key to the group’s performance. 

He added: “Without question, this has been a particularly challenging period for every contractor in the construction industry.

"This makes our latest financial figures even more impressive. In such an unprecedented time for wider society, our priority was simultaneously ensuring the health and safety of all of our people while protecting the future of our business.

"A sensible, pragmatic leadership approach has helped us to achieve these twin objectives. 

"Throughout the pandemic, our staff, supply chain and subcontractors have gone above and beyond. I want to thank each of them and their families for their immense efforts.”