Belfast Telegraph

NI's Gilbert-Ash enjoys its best year ever as turnover and profits surge ahead

By John Mulgrew

A Northern Ireland construction firm says it is on course to see sales grow to £175m after posting a surge in pre-tax profits to £1.49m in its strongest year on record.

Gilbert-Ash's profits have increased 10-fold in the space of a year, while turnover was up 26%, rising to £148m in 2016.

The firm's turnover is higher than its pre-recession peak of £138m in 2007.

Ray Hutchinson, managing director, revealed the firm was on course to see turnover rise to around £175m in the next year.

However, he said the deadlock at Stormont was causing "huge frustration" in the sector and a return to devolution was needed as a matter of urgency.

Gilbert-Ash has been behind a number of large projects in the past year.

That includes a £13m refurbishment and extension of the National Army Museum in London, which was opened by the Queen in April.

Other work involved the £22m refurbishment and extension of the Institute of Engineering and Technology and the £20m Bartlett School of Architecture project, both also in London.

And it built a number of Premier Inn hotels for the Whitbread group in Britain.

Mr Hutchinson said: "The £148m turnover is the highest on record. The previous high was in 2007 - £138m pre-recession. If you consider, at that stage, we would have been focused on the local market, largely in Northern Ireland.

"Now the £148m is largely delivered from projects in Great Britain and further afield.

"Around 2012/13 we realised we had to switch focus from Northern Ireland, and the public sector, to GB."

Here the firm has been behind projects such as the Lyric Theatre in Belfast and the Giant's Causeway Visitor Centre.

And it is currently building the new AC by Marriott Hotel at Belfast Harbour and a student accommodation development at Great Patrick Street.

"Our expectation this year is for further growth to around £170m-£175m, and a strong pipeline into 2018," Mr Hutchinson added.

He said the scope for work here was "limited". "We have a project in each of the growth areas. That will come to an end very soon... concerns are where the pipeline will come after that," he said.

He criticised the ongoing political stalemate here and claimed it was having an effect on schemes being brought to the local market.

"It certainly is very frustrating. I think, from all our perspectives, we are better having local ministers... it is having an impact," he said.

"It's something we would be very keen to see some resolution brought to."

Belfast Telegraph