Belfast Telegraph

Construction firm Northstone's sales climb by more than £100m


By John Mulgrew

Sales at a Northern Ireland construction company have soared by more than £100m.

Northstone NI is headquartered in Belfast and has a workforce of around 1,150.

The business is a subsidiary of the Republic's biggest trading company, CRH plc, and is one of Northern Ireland's best-known construction groups.

While its pre-tax profits were almost flat at £4.34m for the year ending December 31, 2016, turnover rose from £261m to £375m.

In a strategic report accompanying the results, the company said the static profits were caused by contracts "secured at a time of very competitive pricing in the market".

The report added the business was expecting "modest growth" this year.

"The year saw a return to growth, albeit, as forecast, at reduced profitability," it said

"The reduced profitability largely resulted from the execution of construction contracts secured at a time of very competitive pricing in the market.

"The directors anticipate modest growth in 2017, albeit at competitive margins."

Northstone NI also revealed that "the directors aim to continuously upgrade the company's production facilities and to continue seeking opportunities to acquire new business within its existing area of expertise".

The company provides goods and services to the construction industry through its three trading divisions, Farrans Construction, Cubis Industries and Northstone Materials.

Farrans Construction, a contractor on Victoria Square, the Odyssey Arena and the Westlink, provides conventional contracting, design and build.

It works in the education, healthcare, utility and infrastructure sectors of the industry, among others.

Cubis Industries is a leader in pre-formed access chamber systems.

Earlier this year, CRH chief executive Albert Manifold insisted that the firm's US businesses would not supply materials for the building of US President Donald Trump's planned wall between America and Mexico.

The construction firm is the biggest building materials supplier in North America, where it generated sales of €14.2bn (£12.2bn) last year, most of it from the United States.

Just over half of those sales were connected to infrastructure projects, such as highways.

Mr Manifold said that CRH's geographic spread in the US was primarily concentrated on the north-east and mid-west.

"We've a broad-based business through the United States - in fact we're present in all 50 states," he added.

"But one area where we do not have any significant presence is in the extreme south of the United States. The materials we supply are local by nature." He told how CRH had "no significant operations anywhere near" areas including southern Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and southern California - states where Mr Trump's wall will be built if the plan goes ahead.

Mr Manifold pointed out that while CRH has a presence in Texas, it mainly does business in cities such as Dallas, Fort Worth and Austin.

Last year, CRH sold its 25% stake in Israel's only cement firm, Mashav, ending a focus of significant controversy for the group.

CRH's annual general meetings had been targeted by pro-Palestinian activists who wanted it to sell the holding.

Cement produced by Mashav had been used to build sections of the wall that separates Israel from the Palestinian West Bank.

Belfast Telegraph

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