Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Two firms found guilty over Worthing crane deaths

Two firms have been found guilty of health and safety breaches relating to the deaths of two men on a construction site in Worthing in 2005.

At Chichester Crown Court on Friday, WD Bennett’s Plant & Services was found guilty of two health and safety breaches that led to the death of two workers and injured a third. The firm had earlier pleaded not guilty.

WD Bennett was found to have breached section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and regulation 4(1) of the Construction (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1996.

Eurolift (Tower Cranes) pleaded guilty to breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and Regulation 4(1) of the Construction (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1996.

The trial began on 16 March 2009. The court heard how the accident occurred during the dismantling of a tower crane on a Willmott Dixon school site.

The two companies will be sentenced on another date, which has yet to be set.

Health reform czar is a remarkable Tennessean
Bernard Madoff says he is ashamed
Laing O’Rourke fined ВЈ80,000 after fall from height

Mann Construction enters voluntary administration

Enfield-based Mann Construction has entered administration.

The civils and groundworking firm has left behind a string of creditors, some of which are thought to be owed hundreds of thousands of pounds. 

The contractor, which operates mostly in the South and South East, specialises in partnering, social housing and healthcare. It recorded a turnover of ВЈ67m in 2007.

Mann says on its website that it handles contracts worth between ВЈ500,000 and ВЈ20m and works as a subcontractor to a number of major contractors including Willmott Dixon, Morgan Ashurst, Higgins, Carillion and Balfour Beatty.

It is understood that the firm entered administration voluntarily this week.

A spokeswoman confirmed that the firm had appointed administrators but the name of the administrator has not yet been confirmed.

Check ContractJournal.com for more updates as they emerge.

Morgan Ashurst wins two university contracts worth ВЈ25m
GM says 7,500 took buyouts, including 310 at Spring Hill

£17m sewage scheme for Scottish Highlands beauty spot

Black & Veatch has started work on a ВЈ17m sewage scheme at Cromarty Firth on the northeast coast of Scotland, an area famous for its birdlife and cruise liner visits

The Belleport project involves the design, procurement and construction of a new wastewater treatment works and sludge treatment centre.

Existing sewage sites at Alness Point and Rosskeen are being converted into pumping stations that will eventually transfer wastewater to the new works for treatment before discharge to the Cromarty Firth.

The 15-month project forms part of Scottish Water’s '2010 Vision for the Highlands', a £200m investment campaign of improvements throughout the north of Scotland.

Briefs: Healthways to settle lawsuit
Contractors fear £2bn Forth Crossing will blow budget
Holladay Properties begins office project

Isle of Wight contractor fined after dump truck overturns

An Isle of Wight building contractor has been fined ВЈ7,000 and ordered to pay costs of ВЈ5,728.50 after a dump truck overturned, injuring its untrained driver.

Shanklin-based A. Carpenter & Sons (Builders) was found guilty of a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act at Newport Magistrates' Court following an investigation by the Health & Safety Executive.

The incident in Wootton, Isle of Wight, occurred on 23 November 2007. The driver of the skip-loading dump truck had not been trained properly, nor had a full risk assessment been carried out. As a result, the truck overturned and he suffered sprained ligaments and injuries to his left knee.

Joanna Woodcock, HSE Inspector, said: "In this incident an untrained driver, a slippery slope and an awkward route resulted in the dumper overturning. It was a matter of luck that nobody was killed."

Health reform czar is a remarkable Tennessean
Randalls Groundworks fined after worker injured in roller accident

Monday, March 30, 2009

Wrekin's £11m ruby changed hands for just £13,000 in 1998

Wrekin Construction’s most dazzling asset – “The Gem of Tanzania” - was bought for just £13,000 by its first owner.

That's despite the fact that its third owner, David Unwin, used it to step forward two years ago and 'invest ВЈ11m' into Wrekin when it was on its knees after racking up operating losses while run by Simon Frain (chairman) and John Worthington (chief executive).

Wrekin went into administration three weeks ago.

Unwin’s 2.1kg gemstone had passed through the hands of two previous owners since being discovered in 1998 by an African miner working for Ideal Standards, a company working near the small town of Arusha in Tanzania.

The Financial Times has uncovered a series of twists and turns in the fascinating story from that moment on.


Wrekins £11m ruby changed hands for just £13,000 in 1998


Trevor Michael Hart-Jones had invested in Ideal Standards and the company sold him the item for a mere ВЈ13,000.

“It was not Hart-Jones’s first foray into gem dealing,” said the FT. “He was convicted of illegal diamond trading in South Africa in the early 1980s.”

“Moreover, in 1997, he struck a deal with an illegal junta in Sierra Leone to exploit its mineral resources, according to official testimony from Ahmed Kabbah, the elected president restored to power in 1998.

“Businesses run by Hart-Jones would in return have raised a £670m loan for the junta.”

Hart-Jones, interviewed last week in his cottage in East Sussex, said he was wrongly convicted of illegal diamond trading.

The same man appeared on BBC Newsnight in 2007 when a ВЈ100m scheme, apparently backed by the Swaziland royal family, surfaced in which an Aids cure that he was pedalling turned out to be nothing more than вЂgoat serum’ and the claims of people being cured within 20 minutes were treated with amazement.

Over the weekend Hart-Jones told the FT: “I have a slightly chequered past. All these things have been taken out of context.”

The ruby landed in the UK in 2002. Hart-Jones didn’t find it easy to track down a buyer but eventually it was transferred to the ownership of Tony Howarth.

Howarth now lives in Switzerland.

In 2006, Howarth and Unwin shook hands on a deal that saw “The Gem of Tanzania” pass across to Unwin, along with “some Rolls Royce cars” in exchange for a parcel of land.

As part of that deal the gem was valued at ВЈ300,000.

In 2007, Tamar switched its accountants to Ashgates, the Derby-based accountancy group. Ashgates accepted the rock’s raised value of £11m.

When contacted by ContractJournal.com, Ashgates refused to discuss the gem. Requests were turned down with the reply: “We can’t comment.”

Wrekin ruby saga now has £100m goat-serum-as-Aids-cure twist
Will stock market’s rally stick or vanish?
Wrekin ruby saga - valuation jumped from £300,000 to £11m

Engineer jailed for 10 years for incest and paedophile offences

ICE Fellow and leading geotechnical engineer Dr Peter Rankilor was jailed for 10 years last week after being found guilty of 24 serious sexual offences against children.

Rankilor, 66, is an expert on the design and application of geotextiles, geomembranes and geosynthetics.

He was sentenced on Friday last week following a trial at Minshull Crown Court in Manchester in January where he was found guilty of a series of charges of indecent assault and incest between 1980 and 1986.

He was arrested after a woman went to police to report that he had molested her in the 1980s. Police discovered within the course of his investigation that he had also abused another young girl.

Judge Mushtaq Khokhar told Rankilor that he had “robbed these girls of their innocence at a very early age”, and that despite claims of ill health, the severity and quantity of offences meant “the only possible sentence I can impose is a custodial one”.

Rogue security raids across Scotland
Trio of bosses cleared of manslaughter
Bernard Madoff says he is ashamed

Mitie says outsourcing market is still attractive

The market for outsourced services remains attractive says Mitie.

Mitie, the outsourcing and asset management company, issued a trading update this morning ahead of its financial results for the 12-month period ending on 31 March.

Profits are reported to have been in line with management expectations.

Mitie enjoyed “good growth” in the second half of the year, despite a slowing in some areas of its business such as interior fit-out and new-build housing – though it only has limited exposure to these sectors

“In the period since our last interim management statement, we have been particularly pleased with our progress in sectors that support the UK’s national infrastructure, both through our public and private sector clients,” says the group.


Mitie says outsourcing market is still attractive


Utilities - preferred bidder for a six-year integrated facilities management contract with Thames Water with an estimated total to Mitie of over ВЈ100m.

Healthcare - a multi-service contract with St. Georges Healthcare NHS
Trust, whose main site in Tooting, South West London, is one of the UK’s largest teaching hospitals.

Social housing - day-to-day responsive repairs to 6,500 properties in Hampshire, Wiltshire and Berkshire in a four-year contract with Wessex Housing Partnership with a total value of ВЈ9m.

Also an award from St Pancras & Humanist Housing Association, valued at ВЈ7m over four years, to deliver a responsive repairs, voids and adaptations
service to the tenants of 5,300 homes across North London and the Home Counties.

In North Hampshire, Mitie has renewed and expanded its repairs and maintenance contract with Sentinel Housing Association. The new contract, valued at ВЈ50m over five years, starts in April 2009. It involves 7,300 homes.

Lovell homes in on Wellingborough
VantagePointe development planned
Business briefs: Mortgage rates are lowest on record
Rok Building and Mitie among 17 vying for £40m framework

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Trio of bosses cleared of manslaughter

Three bosses charged with killing a labourer walked free from Cardiff Crown Court today after the prosecution dramatically called a halt to their trial.

The judge in the case Mr Justice Pitchford called for the method of working on mains pipes which carry millions of litres of water to be investigated.

The three men had been accused of the manslaughter through gross negligence of 25-year-old labourer Craig Rees when a water main burst open at a pumping station in Usk in May 2006.

Walesonline reported that Craig, a father-of-one from Williamstown, Rhondda, died instantly when joints on a new meter installation suddenly gave way as he tried to stop what until that moment had been small leaks in a chamber below ground level.


Trio of bosses cleared of manslaughter


Jeffrey Reed, 35, of Sannan Street, Aberbargoed, the site agent for the company employing him, Lewis Construction of Pontyclun together with Colin Hughes, 47, of Hereford and Gary Sanford, 42, from Ty Canol, Cwmbran - both production managers with United Utilities which operated the site for Welsh Water - were later charged with unlawfully causing his death.

All three denied a charge of manslaughter in a trial which began on February 24 and is thought to have cost hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Craig's distraught family left the courtroom this morning hurridly and in tears as Winston Roddick QC announced that the prosecution, having heard the quality of the evidence as it emerged from witnesses, did not think a conviction should follow.

The jury was directed by the judge to return not guilty verdicts against the three.

M. Tangredi Restaurants’ executive indicted on charges of fraud
Del Biaggio broker is charged
New Considerate Constructors programme set for July launch

Government urged to create jobs through energy efficiency investment

The government is being urged to invest in energy efficiency measure to create construction jobs and reduce carbon emissions.
Ahead of next month’s budget two reports have been launched which spell out the required investment and resulting economic and environmental results.

A report from Greenpeace suggests that for every ВЈ1m spent 15-20 jobs are created to improve the housing stock.
Meanwhile, research from Caleb Management Services says up to 50,000 jobs could be created and significant amounts of carbon dioxide saved if the government were to invest in refurbishing non-residential buildings.

The research, commissioned by Kingspan Insulated Panels, says that 20% of the UK’s emissions could be saved with an annual investment of £1.18bn.


Government urged to create jobs through energy efficiency investment


It is suggested that, rather than further burden the taxpayer, the funding could be provided through Government supported loans paid back through energy savings.

Alan Whitehead MP, chair of the parliamentary renewable and sustainable energy group, said: “These recommendations should act as a call to action for government and industry in addressing this most important of issues.”

Mark Harris, Kingspan’s Divisional Building Technology Director, said:  “There is a precedent in the public sector for interest free loans for improvements to public buildings. The owner pays this back with the energy savings.

“It becomes self financing and we’re pushing for the government to do something similar in the private sector.”

£4.7bn cable laying plan for UK
College construction delays hundreds of jobs at risk, Atkins warns
Appeals court: Madoff will remain in prison

Mansell wins £5.8m first phase of south Devon business park


Mansell has a ВЈ5.8m contract to tackle the first phase of the Edginswell business park in Torquay.

The project, for the Hawkins Trust, will include the construction of a three-storey office block, plus access roads to service the park.

The project is expected to be completed within 54 weeks.

The remaining phases of the scheme will include commercial, retail and further office buildings.


Holladay Properties begins office project
Work on Bible theme park suspended in Lebanon
Buckingham Group wins £35m Olympic Handball Arena contract

Saturday, March 28, 2009

LIFE Build wins £8.5m Richmond school project

LIFE Build Solutions has scooped an ВЈ8.5m deal to upgrade the Ibstock Place School on the edge of Richmond Park, London.

The job includes 16 new classrooms, six science laboratories, plus a library and resources centre.

The 75-week project, which totals 3,500m2 and consists of two linked three- and four-storey blocks, will run through to summer 2010.

Nolensville leaders wrangle over Town Center project
£200m boost for university building
Mansell to build £7m customer services centre

Top 5 construction tenders - 27 March 2009

This week's construction tenders includes a ВЈ250m refurbishment framework for council housing in Nottingham, a ВЈ60m facilities management scheme for BAA and a bio-energy research building. The details are only an outline of what is available, for the full OJEU click on the link.

Nottingham: Housing refurbishment

Value: ВЈ250m Nottingham City Homes, the ALMO of Nottingham City Council, is advertising for a framework of up to six contractors to manage and maintain its 29,200 properties. The aim of the four year deal is to bring the housing stock up to Decent Homes standard. It will include internal work, comprising kitchen and bathroom replacement and rewiring, alongside an external improvement programme. Deadline: 24 AprilADVERTISEMENT

Top 5 construction tenders - 27 March 2009


Oxford: Education construction

Value: ВЈ90m Oxford Brookes University is looking for a contractor to construct a BREEAM Excellent rated building at its Gipsy Lane campus. It will house a library, teaching spaces, students' union, food court, medical suite and commercial functions. The work will also include the extension and refurbishment of existing buildings. The work will be procured by a two stage tender process and will take the form of an NEC3 contract. Deadline: 24 April

UK: Facilities management

Value: ВЈ60m BAA has issued a contract notice for a bundled facilities management services agreement for all its UK sites. The services range from m&e and building fabric maintenance to car park barrier maintenance and traffic signal repair. Deadline: 7 April

Luton: Building work

Value: ВЈ9m Marsh Farm Community Development Trust has advertised for a contractor to construct a community enterprise and resource centre. The contract is expected to last for 14 months. Deadline: 6 April

Birmingham: Building work

Value: ВЈ6.5m Aston University is looking for expressions of interest in the construction of the European Bioenergy Research Institute. The purpose designed building will support the University Centre of Excellence in bio-energy, providing new laboratory facilities and a unit designed to extract energy from low-graqde bio-waste. The work includes the alteration and refurbishment of the arts centre adjacent to the new building. Deadline: May 1


Holladay Properties begins office project
Top 5 construction tenders - 12 March 2009
£200m boost for university building

Construction deflation knocks £40m off cost of Spurs' new stadium

Tottenham Hotspur claims it will save ВЈ40m on the cost of their planned new stadium due to the falling price of construction materials.

"The stadium build cost has come down by about ВЈ40m because of a fall in the price of steel and cement," Spurs' finance director Matthew Collecott told Bloomberg. "People who want to do this project have greater availability than they did a year or so ago."

Spurs are planning to spend ВЈ250m on the new stadium.

A full planning application for the Northumberland Development Project, adjacent to their existing White Hart Lane ground, is due in the next few months.

The club says it has been encouraged by the response of local residents to the proposals.

Construction work will start next month on their new training complex in Enfield.

GOP predicts budget disaster
EDF warns against planning delays to UK’s new nuclear programme

Friday, March 27, 2009

Morgan Est and Carillion finally start work on £209m A1 JV

Morgan Est and Carillion are finally set to start work onf a ВЈ209m contract to upgrade the southern section of the A1 from Dishforth to Barton - the largest ever early contractor involvement scheme.

The scheme was originally due to start in 2007 and due to be completed in 2010 but it was pushed back by two years.

The work includes upgrading the two-lane dual carriageway to a three-lane motorway, as well as installing low-noise surfacing to benefit local residents.

Work is now due to finish in 2012.

Paul Smith, chief executive of Morgan Sindall said: "This is a major road project and we have been working on the contract with the Highways Agency since 2004. Morgan Est has an excellent track record in delivering infrastructure projects of this type and we are excited to be working alongside Carillion."

Nolensville leaders wrangle over Town Center project
Work on Bible theme park suspended in Lebanon
Morgan Est wins new Edinburgh Airport contract

Buckingham Group wins £35m Olympic Handball Arena contract

Buckingham Group has beaten off Barr, Byrne and Mansell to win the ВЈ35m contract to build the Olympic handball venue.

Construction work is set to start in the summer.

Five firms were originally shortlisted for the scheme but William Verry dropped out of the race in February.

The 7,000-seat arena, which will sit in the west of the Olympic Park to the south of the hockey centre, will feature external copper cladding.

Glazing will encircle the building at concourse level to allow visitors to watch sport taking place inside, while the roof will have a rainwater harvest feature for toilet flushing.

Olympic Delivery Authority chief executive David Higgins said:“This appointment takes us a step closer towards a simple, sustainable and flexible Handball Arena that works for Games and legacy.”

The Handball Arena will be in the west of the Olympic Park, to the south of the Hockey Centre.

Webcams show Olympic Village progress
Work on Bible theme park suspended in Lebanon

Henry Boot: one-in-five shortlists contain a low bid

Bidding for construction work is “getting tougher all the time” according to Jamie Boot, managing director of Henry Boot.

Making matters worse is the fact that some shortlists contain “an out-of-line bid” that comes in at a figure well below the rest.

It’s happening in 1-in-5 bids in some areas of work, he reports, and at a frequency of 1-in-10 in others.

Boot is philosophical about the situation. “People have the right to buy work by bidding too tightly,” he comments.

Henry Boot has a construction operation with an ВЈ80m-a-year turnover. It generated ВЈ2.5m by way of profit last year.

Key areas of operation were Decent Homes projects in Sheffield and Rotherham along with several prison projects.


Henry Boot: one-in-five shortlists contain a low bid


“It involves a little bit of civils, but mostly building,” says Boot.

“Out there it’s getting tougher all them time and the number of opportunities are falling.”

The demise of Wrekin Construction prompted the comment: “If a construction business is running well it should be cash positive. If a construction group is in-hock to the tune of ВЈ4m-ВЈ5m it must be a relatively unusual one.”

Jamie Boot confirmed that there are no £11m rubies tucked away in the company’s register of assets.

“The only ruby I’ve bought has been the occasional one for the missus,” he reports.

FedEx to cut 1,000 jobs, $1 billion in expenses
Work on Bible theme park suspended in Lebanon
Rogue security raids across Scotland
College construction delays hundreds of jobs at risk, Atkins warns

Wrekin ruby saga now has £100m goat-serum-as-Aids-cure twist

The ВЈ11m Wrekin ruby saga continues to dazzle with its surprising twists. This time it’s the revelation that a former owner of the gem was in the news when he was exposed as the force behind a ВЈ100m scheme in Africa which was attempting to sell goat serum as an Aids-cure product.

Wrekin Construction's uncertain future was saved two years ago thanks to a take-over offer from David Unwin.

Unwin produced a certificate вЂ“ which was assumed to be genuine вЂ“ valuing a piece of precious stone at ВЈ11m.

Wrekin took ownership of the stone and handed Unwin £11m-worth of preference shares. At a stroke Wrekin’s credit worthiness was restored as the balance sheet was transformed into asset.


Wrekin ruby saga now has £100m goat-serum-as-Aids-cure twist


That transaction was based on a certificate of valuation, originating in Italy and dated as being 2007. Doubt surrounds its accuracy.

Also, a previous certificate which attempted to establish the stone’s worth at £11m dating from 2004, now looks to be a further illusion.

But the jewel had a colourful history even prior to that.

The Shropshire Star newspaper reports: “It emerged today that the uncut stone once belonged to a businessman exposed as being behind a ВЈ100m scheme selling a вЂcure for Aids’.

“Official documents supporting the £11m valuation for the gemstone in 2004 show it was owned by Trevor Michael Hart Jones, also known as Michael Hart Jones.

“The documents include an appraisal of the stone's value in 2004 for Hart Jones, who was later exposed by the BBC Newsnight programme as running a scheme, apparently backed by the Swaziland royal family, selling вЂgoat serum’ as a cure for Aids.

“The scheme was brought to the attention of the BBC by Swazi-born actor Richard E Grant, who had seen a brochure from Hart Jones' company, Commercial African Resources Development, which showed African patients being injected with the serum and showing marked improvement within 20 minutes.”

Grant called Newsnight after discovering that Hart Jones had allegedly been involved in diamond deals with the military junta which took power in Sierra Leone in 1997.

Gem expert David Davis, who undertook a valuation, records the stone as being a ruby from Tanzania, of "very fine red colour" which could be cut into many gem stones.

Hart Jones is thought to have sold the ruby to another party who later did a deal with Unwin – he parted with a package of land in exchange for the ruby and вЂsome Rolls Royce cars’.

Unwin owns five other trading operations in addition to Wrekin which is now in administration. Unwin’s activities all come together under a holding company called Tamar.

An unnamed gemstone is listed in the Tamar’s accounts in 2005, with a value of £300,000.

Peter Greenwood, a Wrekin director told CJ that after acquiring the ruby for £11m in 2007, Wrekin subsequently had it valued “annually”.

Wrekin’s ВЈ11m ruby saga - new revelation
Wrekin ruby saga - valuation jumped from £300,000 to £11m
Will stock market’s rally stick or vanish?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Morgan Ashurst wins two university contracts worth ВЈ25m

Morgan Ashurst has won two contracts worth more than ВЈ25m by the University of Leeds to build a student accommodation complex, as well as refurbishing a Grade II-listed Colour Science Laboratory.

The first contract, worth ВЈ21m, will see Morgan Ashurst build two вЂhalf-hexagon’-shaped student accommodation blocks – one eight-storeys and the other six storeys high – at Mount Preston Street, Leeds.

The new buildings, to be named Charles Morris Halls, will accommodate 457 en-suite bedrooms, as well as shared kitchens and lounge areas. 

The contractor will crane in bathroom pods to the buildings, to reduce construction time and cost.

The second deal, worth ВЈ4m will see Morgan Ashurst refurbish the Colour Science Laboratory at Woodhouse Lane, which will remain fully operational throughout the project.

Charles Morris Halls is due to be completed in June 2010 with the refurbishment of the Colour Science Laboratory scheduled for completion in December 2010.

Redrow founder Morgan returns to house builder’s board
VantagePointe development planned
Grassley: AIG execs should quit or commit suicide
Morgan Est wins new Edinburgh Airport contract

Byrne Bros bags ВЈ50m Shard concrete frame deal

Byrne Bros has won the concrete frame package on the Shard of Glass, a deal worth up to ВЈ50m.

The move has stunned rival contractors who considered Byrne an outsider to win one of the biggest concrete jobs in London.

View Shard of Glass photo gallery

ContractJournal.com understands that main contractor Mace confirmed the appointment of Byrne Bros this week.

A project source said: "This has caused quite a surprise because Byrnes weren't really the favourite for this until right at the last minute.

"A lot of people thought the job would go to John Doyle but it seems Byrnes have come in late and snatched the job away from them."

A similar round of last-minute jockeying is currently underway for the ВЈ50m steelwork package on the Shard.


Byrne Bros bags ВЈ50m Shard concrete frame deal


Cleveland Bridge was originally named as the preferred steel contractor last June by developer Sellar Property Group.

But Severfield Rowen is now expected to replace Cleveland with a confirmation of the contract award expected within days.

The source said: "Mace is building this under a Guaranteed Maximum Price and all the subcontracts are on that basis.

"Because it's a GMP job there has been a lot of horse-trading about price to spread the risk. I think you'll see a lot more of this sort of thing in the current climate."

Bellevue Center developer asks for year delay for overhaul
Southdale wins ВЈ20m York housing deal
Mace starts construction on the Shard of Glass

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Harrington forms joint venture with Saudi construction group

Harrington has formed a joint venture with Al Suwaiket Contracting, a construction group based in Saudi Arabia.

The jv will chase work within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) zone – these states include Saudi Arabia, as well as Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

The jv is called Harrington (Middle East). It will have its headquarters in Dammam, where a new 20,000 sq m office and depot complex will be created.

Services offered by the jv will include tower crane and hoist rental and slip-forming, as well as structural concrete construction.

Sheikh Mobarak Al Suwaiket, president of Al Suwaiket, said: “We have always invested in the finest people and technology and this new enterprise will take this commitment into a new dimension.”


Harrington forms joint venture with Saudi construction group


Harrington describes itself as market leader for slip-forming, tower cranes and hoist rental in both the UK and Eire.

Saudi Arabia is making a big push to become one of the world’s Top 10 most competitive economies by 2010.

Among the many initiatives underway is the construction of four Economic Cities in which the government is investing more than ВЈ40bn.

Al Suwaiket Group has been named by Arab News as Number 11 among the Top 100 companies in Saudi Arabia.

It has in construction, catering, airlines, real estate and agriculture. Offices are based in Bahrain, Dubai, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Within the group, Al Suwaiket Contracting is active in building and civil engineering.

Harrington was founded in 1968 as a family-run formwork contracting operation. Turnover is currently around ВЈ250m a year.


VantagePointe development planned
Job losses at Story Construction

Scaffolder fined after pole falls on pedestrian

A Warwickshire scaffolder has been fined ВЈ4,000 after an accident on a site in Coventry city centre in May 2008 when a steel scaffold pole fell 5m onto a pedestrian underneath.

Sky Scaffolding (Midlands) was also ordered to pay costs of ВЈ1,761 after pleading guilty at Coventry Magistrates' Court to breaching both Regulation 10(2) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and Regulation 3[1](b) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

The court heard how two qualified scaffolders were working approximately 5m above ground and one had momentarily leant a short pole against a guardrail.

As he turned away, the steel pole, weighing several pounds, fell onto a passing member of the public, injuring her with a significant gash to her leg, requiring hospital treatment.


Scaffolder fined after pole falls on pedestrian


One of the workmen, working on the pavement to pass materials and poles up to colleagues, had been tasked with asking pedestrians to wait during movement of materials or when materials were being handled overhead but this was not an easy job for one person, as people were passing in both directions.

He did not see this particular lady approaching and did not ask her to stop.

Sky Scaffolding had been charged with not taking suitable and sufficient steps to prevent any person being struck by any falling material or object liable to cause personal injury. They were also charged with not conducting a suitable and sufficient risk assessment.

The company had started work at 07.30 which they thought would avoid the busier times of pedestrian traffic but work was still underway at 09.20 when the incident occurred.

The scaffolders had decided to stop the work because pedestrian traffic was too busy and the accident occurred while they were securing materials on the upper level of the scaffolding to make it structurally safe to leave.

HSE Inspector Carol Southerd said: "The work being undertaken that morning, on the pavement, placed pedestrians and workers at risk because the company had failed to take more-robust steps to ensure that the system of work was effective to protect the public from simple human error such as dropped materials or tools during scaffolding erection.

"All employers have a responsibility to ensure that safe working practices are in place, because failure to do so could well cost lives, as well as enforcement action from HSE. The injured lady was immobilised for several weeks and still suffers from anxiety but it could have been so much worse if the pole had struck her head or body."

Work on Bible theme park suspended in Lebanon
Laing O’Rourke fined ВЈ80,000 after fall from height
Randalls Groundworks fined after worker injured in roller accident

Rok Building and Mitie among 17 vying for £40m framework

Rok Building and Mitie are among seventeen firms on the shortlist for the ВЈ40m Sussex-wide framework for smaller public works.

The four-year framework for public sector schemes ranging between ВЈ100,000 and ВЈ750,000 is aimed at local firms. Almost all of the contenders are regional contractors based in the Sussex region.

East Sussex Council, which is leading the procurement of the framework, is planning to appoint between eight and 12 contractors to the framework.

Framework manager Paul Benford said using local suppliers was a crucial element of the framework: "Most of the bidders are local but even those from outside the area have been asked to look at utilising smaller local suppliers in their supply chain," he said.


Rok Building and Mitie among 17 vying for £40m framework


Framework members will range in size. Benford said: "It's quite a broad range because we want to ensure we get expertise in all areas. So we have firms bidding with ВЈ10m a year turnovers down to firms with annual turnovers of ВЈ400,000."

The Tier Three framework follows in the footsteps of the recently awarded ВЈ80m Sussex wide Tier Two contract which will deliver work between ВЈ500,000 and ВЈ3m.

The seventeen bidders for the Tier Three deal are:Booker & Best Bramber Construction Colours Decorating Fitzpatrick Contractors Ian Williams J. Cheesmur JH Payne & Sons Mariners Building Contractors Mitie Property Services (Fareham) Patching & Son P H Beck R B Construction Group Rok Building (Eastbourne) T H Kenyon & Son Underwood Construction Walkers Construction WH Catchpole

College construction delays hundreds of jobs at risk, Atkins warns
Even in slump, firms find way for bonuses
Top 5 construction tenders - 12 March 2009

Monday, March 23, 2009

LSC boss resigns over college building funding delays

Learning and Skills Council (LSC) chief executive Mark Haysom, who presided over the delayed college building programme, has resigned.

Colleges have warned that they face losing more than ВЈ170m because of delays in getting funding for refurbishment.

Meanwhile Atkins has warned that hundreds of construction jobs could go if the programme is not brought back on track.

Government trouble-shooter Sir Andrew Foster is conducting an urgent review of the situation.

Mr Haysom said: "I don't need to wait for that report to be published before making my decision because it will, I'm sure, confirm what I now know - that there have been failures in the way that the LSC has managed the programme.

"No matter where those mistakes have been made and no matter how many people have been involved in the capital programme, as the chief executive of the LSC I am, of course, finally accountable. That is why I have made my decision to step down at this time."

People in Business
M. Tangredi Restaurants’ executive indicted on charges of fraud
College construction delays hundreds of jobs at risk, Atkins warns
Association of Colleges’s anger over college building delays

Police urge plant industry to beat theft with star-rating scheme

Plant manufacturers, owners and users are being encouraged to raise the bar in preventing plant theft with the introduction of a new five-star scheme devised by Thatcham, the insurance industry’s research centre.

The scheme is backed by ACPO, the Met Police’s new Plant and Agricultural National Intelligence Unit (PANIU) and the Construction Industry Theft Solutions and is being rolled out to plant users, owners, insurers and finance companies in a series of seminars at New Scotland Yard.

Under the scheme Cesar-marked plant earns one star with a second for a unique key and the third for an approved immobiliser. These three features will be considered вЂmandatory’ with the last two stars being considered optional and awarded for perimeter security (locking cabs and windows) and an after-theft or tracking system which is recognised by police forces (usually Thatcham’s Cat 5).


Police urge plant industry to beat theft with star-rating scheme


Very few items of plant currently conform to this specification but the group want such features to become standard fitment in the future and some contractors, insurers and finance companies may start requiring retrofitments to the equipment they use, finance or insure.

DC Ian Elliott of PANIU said: "This first seminar is for major contractors and utility companies and we will also be having similar meetings for plant hirers and the insurance and finance industries."

The best resumes highlight results, not just job titles
New Considerate Constructors programme set for July launch
People in Business

Wrekin's ВЈ11m ruby saga - new revelation

The exciting revelation of the weekend for followers of the Wrekin ВЈ11m ruby saga is that The Gem of Tanzania has turned out to be no more than a cricket ball-sized chunk of raw crystal.

Not a mounted and polished piece of jewellery at all.

On top of that there are doubts over the purple rock’s valuation certificate – it could  have been written on a Asprey & Garrard letterhead that was being “used for purposes for which it was never intended” by a valuer with a history of supplying over-optimistic valuations.

The Financial Times dubs The Gem of Tanzania episode as “the strangest accounting controversy of recent times”.

Wrekin’s elusive precious stone finally turned up on Friday afternoon last week when it was delivered into the hands of Ernst & Young, administrators for Wrekin Construction which is now in administration but is expected to end up in liquidation.


Wrekins ВЈ11m ruby saga - new revelation


When David Unwin arrived two years ago and “invested £11m” into Wrekin the group was on its knees after a racking up losses while run by Simon Frain (chairman) and John Worthington (chief executive).

Wrekin needed an investment of cash but what it got was a ruby valued at ВЈ11m. However that valuation alone turned the assets of Wrekin from negative to positive in a single swoop and that was enough to instil confidence among Wrekin’s clients and suppliers.

That sufficed to keep Wrekin’s wheels rolling until the RBS bank got cold feet on providing the contractor with debt and pulled the plug.

Derek Miller, the solicitor of David Unwin, has now stepped forward with details of The Gem of Tanzania.

“Miller had the job of forwarding the stone to Ernst & Young, allowing him to counter press speculation that it did not exist,” says the FT story.

“However, when he began checking out the 2004 valuation certificate, Miller said he was dismayed to find that the competence of the valuer was disputed by a referee, a former Asprey & Garrard employee, Brian Dunn.

“Dunn told the FT that a reference he provided on Asprey & Garrard letterhead вЂwas used for purposes for which it was never intended’ and that the valuer, who is now retired, had a history of supplying over-optimistic valuations.”

Unwin’s solicitor thinks Unwin believed he had bought a ruby worth £11m once cut into smaller gems.

Miller provided photos of The Gem of Tanzania.

Unwin’s receipt showing that £11m was actually spent is yet to surface.

Wrekin ruby saga - valuation jumped from £300,000 to £11m
Wrekin ruby saga - Tanzania gem now on eBay

Renew announces second round of staff cuts in five months

Project cancellations and deferrals have taken further toll at Renew which has now made a second announcement of job losses.

Renew’s Specialist Building division – already downsized by 14% last autumn – is to suffer a further trimming back so that total capacity will be down by 37% in total.

A spokesman would not say how many jobs are involved.

Renew will take a ВЈ2.5m hit to cover the latest redundancy and restructuring costs.

There will be a further ВЈ1m hit in an attempt to settle legacy contracts containing unresolved issues.

A previous bout of downsizing five months ago triggered a ВЈ1.5m cost.

Renew told the Stock Exchange that it will fail to deliver the profits this financial year in line what was expected.


Renew announces second round of staff cuts in five months


Brian May, chief executive, said: “Results for the first half of the year are expected to be satisfactory, however the outlook has deteriorated and as a result the board does not now expect the group’s results to meet full year market expectations.”

The last two months have been challenging in Renew’s Specialist Building operation, the result being project cancellations and deferrals “leading to reduced trading expectations for the second half of this financial year”

May continued: “As a result of these weaker market conditions, the board is acting to reduce capacity in this business stream by a further 23%, giving a reduction of 37% over the last year.”

Jobs will go progressively through the second half of the year.

After spending another £2.5m on redundancy and other restructuring costs, “the resultant savings in annual costs will be more than £7m”

What work is still left will give only smaller operating margins.

In Renew’s Specialist Engineering division, the group’s trading update today says that the market and the forward order book remain stable with trading for the full year anticipated to be in line with market expectations.

Renew has been juggling with names and “has decided to reclassify its Rail Infrastructure business from Specialist Building into Specialist Engineering as this reflects better the nature of work performed”.

As a result, Specialist Engineering is expected to represent 40% of group turnover going forward with “operating margins remaining stable2.

C&A Pumps has integrated well since its acquisition on 1 October 2008.

Renew said: “The group has recently reached final account settlement on the last of the basket of legacy construction contracts, which were originally provided against in 2005. This has led to an exceptional charge of £1m which will be reported in the first half results.”

Renew’s balance sheet remains debt free.

Autoworkers feel stuck between buyouts, possible future cuts
Wolseley’s six-month loss runs to £970m
FedEx to cut 1,000 jobs, $1 billion in expenses

College construction delays hundreds of jobs at risk, Atkins warns

Hundreds of design and construction jobs could be lost if the Government does not speed up its review of its stalled ВЈ2.4bn college building programme, WS Atkins warned today.

WS Atkins has won thirteen contracts on the LSC programme so far and is shortlisted for a further eight. It is the only bidder to have won contracts across the LSC’s three regional sectors in England – North, South and Central.

The firm's call for action follows news this week that many colleges are facing bankruptcy after spending on designs for new college buildings which have now been put on ice while the Government review takes place.

The review was set up in January after the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) revealed it had overspent its budget for the college building programme and could not fund the schemes it had approved. Only eight of 144 college construction projects have gone ahead so far with another 71 frozen, despite securing approval in principle. A further 65 are awaiting approval. Led by Sir Andrew Foster, the review is not due to report until late April.


College construction delays hundreds of jobs at risk, Atkins warns


Paul Dollin, managing director of Atkins’ design and engineering business, said: “At peak we would expect to have around 250 staff employed on LSC projects with the contracts we have won and any threat to that work could have an obvious impact. This is especially true now when the market is not providing as many opportunities, making it harder to relocate staff in the short term.”

He added that the knock on effect on local construction economies and training programmes would be significant.He called on the Government to speed up the review, and to deliver on its promise to bring work forward to kick start the economy. “While we hear a lot about bringing forward work the evidence on the ground is completely contrary to that.”

FedEx to cut 1,000 jobs, $1 billion in expenses
Association of Colleges’s anger over college building delays
EDF warns against planning delays to UK’s new nuclear programme

Highways Agency to spend £1bn on major improvements in 2009-10

The Highways Agency will have a budget of just over ВЈ1bn to spend on major improvements to the road network in 2009-10.

The figure of ВЈ1.086bn is slightly more than the ВЈ1.049bn set aside in last year's budget.

The Highway's Agency's budget for the year is set out in its business plan for 2009-10, and follows an announcement in January that ВЈ400m of planned investment would be brought forward this year as part of the government's fiscal stimulus package.

The total budget for operating England's strategic road network comes to ВЈ2.897bn. That is split between:

Programme Pay & Allowances - ВЈ67mMajor Improvements to the Network - ВЈ1,086mTraffic Management - ВЈ84mTechnology Improvements - ВЈ345mMaintaining the Network - ВЈ1,113mSmaller Local Schemes and Research and Development - ВЈ202mADVERTISEMENT

Highways Agency to spend £1bn on major improvements in 2009-10


Chief executive Graham Dalton confirmed that construction of the A46 Newark to Widmerpool improvement would start, three years earlier than planned.

Meanwhile the year will also see continued investment in roadside traffic monitoring equipment and variable message signs, which will be installed the full length of the A14.


VantagePointe development planned
Bellevue Center developer asks for year delay for overhaul
Contractors fear £2bn Forth Crossing will blow budget
Tube spending down but safety improves

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Gee Construction's profit gives 5.4% margin

Gee Construction ran up a profit margin of 5.4% last year as a result of a ВЈ1.9m pre-tax profit.

Turnover was ВЈ36m, an increase of ВЈ2m over 2007.

Gee’s latest results cover the 12 months to 30 September 2008.

The group’s previous profit of £1.9m generated a 5.6% margin.

Gee is based in Basildon, Essex and has two operating divisions:

Gee Construction

Building and d&b contracts in the industrial, commercial and residential sectors


Hiring and servicing contractors’ plant and machinery

There was a £500,000 pre-tax profit from the £26m of construction turnover, while Advante’s £8m turnover chipped in with £1.4m towards group profits.

Gee has £8.0m of shareholders’ funds.


Gee Constructions profit gives 5.4% margin


The number of employees was unchanged at 96. The bill for wages and salaries moved higher to ВЈ3.0m.

The highest-paid director received ВЈ288,000 by way of pay plus a further ВЈ34,000 as a contribution to his pension scheme.

In the previous year his tally ran to ВЈ302,000.

Analysis: construction’s long history of blacklisting
Bellevue Center developer asks for year delay for overhaul
Lavendon enjoys margin of 9.1% thanks to higher pre-tax profit
FedEx to cut 1,000 jobs, $1 billion in expenses

Engineering construction workers set for another Kent demo

Engineering construction workers are due to stage another demonstration in Kent on Tuesday next week despite fears that further protests could derail the industry’s pay talks.

Union activists were planning the unofficial action at the Isle of Grain power station as part of an ongoing campaign against local labour losing out to cheaper foreign workers.

The protest was agreed at a rank-and-file meeting of Unite members in London last week where more than 50 activists met to discuss tactics. A march by unemployed workers was also staged in Liverpool on Saturday.

One Unite activist told ContractJournal.com: “This issue is here to stay because we are fighting for our livelihoods.

“We are not going to stand by and watch the employers bring in cheaper labour from abroad.


Engineering construction workers set for another Kent demo


“We have already seen evidence of foreign workers being paid less and that goes against the whole principle of our national agreements.”

Polish contractor Remak was found to be paying tradesmen ВЈ4 an hour less than the agreed rate at the Isle of Grain.

Construction of power plants and steelwork is covered by the Naeci “blue book” agreement which is due to be reviewed this year.

A first round of talks was held earlier this month but the negotiations had been previously suspended following an earlier round of demonstrations over foreign labour.

Employers’ leaders at the Engineering Construction Industry Association said: “We will not take part in the Naeci Wage and Conditions review 2010 under such duress.”

The next round of discussions is due to take place on April 8. But the talks could be threatened by next week’s protest.

One activist said: “Why should it bother us if the talks are suspended – we’re not getting work anyway so it’s irrelevant to talk about pay and conditions.”

People in Business
GMB threatens national strike over underpaid Grain workers
FedEx to cut 1,000 jobs, $1 billion in expenses
HSE appoints translators to improve safety among migrant workers

Ernst & Young gets Wrekin ruby back

The elusive £11m ruby known as “The Gem of Tanzania” has been handed over to Wrekin Construction’s administrator, Ernst & Young.

A brief statement this afternoon said: “The administrators have taken possession of the gemstone reported to be the Gem of Tanzania which will be retained in secure storage while they continue there enquiries.”

Back in 2007, Wrekin’s deeds of agreement named a jewel known as the Star of Zanzibar as being at the heart of the transaction to give Wrekin a new owner.

Current thinking is that the two are in fact the self-same item.

The collapse of Wrekin Construction two weeks ago – now in administration but expected to fall into liquidation soon – could result in many of its subcontractors also folding.


Ernst & Young gets Wrekin ruby back


Darren Davoile, debt recovery manager with debt recovery lawyers Coltman Warner Cranston said: “In addition to the 600 job losses within Wrekin, the smaller businesses that supplied it will take a further hit. I doubt if some will survive.”

Prior to going into administration a fortnight ago, Wrekin had been also facing a winding up order, issued on 15 February.

Triggered initially by a single creditor seeking the return of a relatively “negligible amount”, it had gathered momentum with a result that 20 other Wrekin creditors had joined in with the petition.

It total, the group were seeking payment of a total of ВЈ1.3m owed to them.

The group of 20 included medium-sized subcontractors and even one-man enterprises.

“The average debt owed to them is £50,000-£70,000 and for some this could be 10% of their annual turnover,” said Davoile, “as Wrekin was perceived as one of the good guys.”

Creditors had been struggling to get their money from Wrekin since before Christmas.

The fact that a high percentage of Wrekin’s 600 staff were gone within 24 hours of going into administration, can be taken to show that Ernst & Young had no intention of selling it as a going concern, believes Davoile.

“It will likely go into liquidation,” he says.

With £2.5m owed through VAT, it was unusual that the government department hadn’t dived in to support the winding up order, the convention being that the VAT people usually jump onto a bandwagon when they feel themselves to be at risk of not being paid.

It is thought that Wrekin could have debts running to more than ВЈ10m., all in all.

Wrekin ruby saga - Tanzania gem now on eBay
Wrekin ruby saga - valuation jumped from £300,000 to £11m

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Miller takes £54m Edinburgh University deal

Miller Construction has won a high-profile ВЈ54m deal for the University of Edinburgh.

The firm has held off challenges from Balfour Beatty, Laing O'Rourke and BAM Construction and will build the Scottish Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the university's BioQuarter site in Little France.

The three-storey 8,900m2 building is due for completion in 100 weeks. It will be the first facility on the site, which is planned to provide a total of 130,000m2 of biomedical and research facilities over the coming years under a ВЈ600m-plus total investment.


Nolensville leaders wrangle over Town Center project
Top 5 construction tenders - 12 March 2009
Morgan Est wins new Edinburgh Airport contract

Mansell marches off with £38m RAF residential development

Mansell has been lined up to build a ВЈ38.1m residential development at RAF Lakenheath, Suffolk.

The firm starts work next month on the Liberty Village scheme, which will feature 182 family homes for United States Airforce personnel.

Mansell has been involved with all four previous phases of the development. When finished in October 2011, Liberty Village will provide a total of 606 homes on a 31.7ha site.

VantagePointe development planned
Webcams show Olympic Village progress
Mansell to build £7m customer services centre

Redrow founder Morgan returns to house builder's board

House builder Redrow has announced that company founder Steve Morgan will return to the board as acting executive chairman, whilst the chief executive Neil Fitzsimmons will leave on Monday.

Meanwhile chairman Alan Bowkett will step down at the end of June

Morgan, who founded Redrow in 1974, increased his shareholding to 29.9% earlier this month and said he wanted a bigger say in the running of the company.

In a statement the company said: "Neil Fitzsimmons, Chief Executive, and the Board consider it essential that Mr Morgan is afforded the most effective executive structure to take the Company forward."

Steve Morgan rattles Redrow’s cage by upping his stake to 29.9%
People in Business
Nolensville leaders wrangle over Town Center project

Friday, March 20, 2009

Asian heavyweight mobile crane in action - PHOTOS

One of the largest crawler cranes in Asia, a 1,600t lift capacity Terex Demag CC 8800-1, is being used to erect a gigantic polythene reactor at Dagang, China.

Asian heavyweight mobile crane in action - PHOTOS

For more photos of  the Terex Demag CC 8800-1 in action on this project, visit ConstructionSpace.

The first of the two day operation saw the crane rigged in SSL configuration (max 108m hook height and 19m to 30m working radius) with its full 300t of counterweight, 60t of central ballast and another 640t of Superlift counterweight. It positioned the 47m long/ 407t reactor in a tandem lift with a 450t capacity Demag CC2500.

On day two, the CC 8800-1 finally positions the reactor in a lift that took under an hour and when operations start in September the reactor will produce up to 1 million tonnes of ethylene per year.


Asian heavyweight mobile crane in action - PHOTOS


The 1,600t lift capacity CC 8800-1 has a maximum load moment of 24,002mt and in SWSL configuration with a luffing fly jib, its maximum boom length is 216m.

However, none of its components are wider than 3.5m, most have a shipping weight less than 40t and setting up and dismantling takes two days.

Full redundancy allows the CC8800-1 to continue working if one of its engines or control systems fails and the optional TWIN kit can increase the lifting capacity to 3,200t - the current world record for a mobile crane.

Tennessee may lift restrictions on wine sales
Fake Terex cranes found in China - PHOTOS
Areva in Birmingham to seek UK new nuclear suppliers

Contractor faces ВЈ50,000 fine for employing illegal immigrants

Houslow-based SS Construction faces a fine of up to ВЈ50,000 after it was caught employing illegal immigrants.

The Hounslow Guardian reported that a surprise visit from UK Border Agency officials at a site in Victoria Gardens, Hounslow this week resulted in the discovery of five Indian illegal workers.

All five were arrested and are now due to be deported.

SS Construction has been issued with a Notice of Potential Liability, which gives it 28 days to prove that it made the correct right-to-work checks. If the firm fails to prove that it carried out the procedure then it faces a fine of up to ВЈ10,000 per illegal worker - a potential fine of ВЈ50,000.

Gareth Redmond, the UK Border Agency’s west London and Thames Valley director told the paper: "As long as there are illegal jobs, the UK will be an attractive place for illegal immigrants. That's why we have to put a stop to employers who don't play by the rules.

"In cases where employers are found to be employing illegal workers, we often find they are also undercutting the minimum wage and by-passing health and safety laws.”

New P45 form reminder to contractors
Alstom faces delays on ВЈ400m Langage power plant job

Profile: Imtech chief Jim Steele on the firm's growth plans

Imtech chief executive Jim Steele tells John Leitch how he plans to keep the firm growing.

What shape are you in for 2009 and out beyond that?

The current orderbook runs to £250m and that’s slightly ahead of last year so yes, we’re on track for 2009.

Beyond that, we’ve budgeted for the same turnover and pre-tax profit in 2010 as for 2009 and we’ve already got £100m of that 2010 turnover booked.

Do you have net cash?

Yes, Imtech is strong financially, both at the parent group level in Holland and in each of the various businesses. Looking at the UK’s independent M&E players, then we’re up there in the Top 3, in terms of financial strength, along with NG Bailey and Tommy Clarke.


Profile: Imtech chief Jim Steele on the firms growth plans


The financial status of both main contractors and construction clients has gone up the agenda.   We’re not quizzed closely face to face, so I assume people have already gathered information on us from the likes of Dun & Bradstreet.

There are reports of calls for guarantees.

And there are such calls, yes and the parent company is now asked for a guarantee on occasions, usually triggered by the size of the contract. With us, the call surfaces at jobs with a value of ВЈ12m-ВЈ15m.

By contrast, two years ago no-one would ask such a question at all at our scale of operations.

Imtech’s group policy is not to take cash out of its subsidiaries as they want us to be strong and that pays off when financial questions are asked. You might have noticed that Imtech has grown rapidly in the recent past, especially in the UK, but that was without taking on debt or overtrading but mainly through both organic growth and strategic acquisitions.

Do you use credit insurance?

There’s no need for it. We do a risk analysis before taking on projects as all competent businesses would do. You only have to look at a group like Laing O’Rourke, for example, and you’ll see they are very strong, so work for them is a zero risk.

Do credit insurance providers offer cover on you then?

I’ve no idea as it’s simply not an issue.

I do know that supply chain subcontractors are pleased to work for Imtech as they know they get paid on time.

Is Imtech being squeezed by the banks?

No – we have net cash so financially we’re independent and strongly rated.

That’s a big positive and it will get bigger going forward as more companies will go under the cosh: some will make the mistake of buying work, thus putting them at risk of going down and even if they don’t, once they have become unstable they will struggle to get on bid lists.

What can you say about the pressures on margins?

The pressures have changed: a year ago they were different.

Then, for M&E subcontractors there was risk on the escalation of prices for metal, particularly steel and copper. Let’s say you were bidding ВЈ5m for work that contained a figure of ВЈ250,000 for the steel content. There was a risk that when you came to order up the materials, perhaps one year after putting in your bid, the cost could have jumped to ВЈ500,000.

That meant you had to price in ВЈ250,000 for the steel and another ВЈ250,000 for the risk of an increase. Today that worry has gone and so the amount we price in for risk is zero.

But in its place we have a new risk – today there is uncertainty on the financial strength of some clients and also of some contractors you work for.

London property developers have stopped altogether and no-one can be sure when they’ll start again. That sector accounted for 10%-15% of our turnover, but no more than that, and as we’re holding turnover overall you can see that means we’re still going well in schools, in work for London Underground and in other sectors that are holding up.

With contractors it’s the smaller ones that pose the risk. At the top end, the likes of Laing O’Rourke, Balfour Beatty, Wates and Miller, for example, are as strong now as they were a year ago.

How are Imtech’s high profile projects progressing?

We won the recommendation as mechanical subcontractor on the Olympic stadium and we’ve now started on that. It’s a two-stage tender that was bid competitively and both the client and Sir Robert McAlpine, the main contractor, were involved in selecting us to go forward.

It’s not as complex as the Arsenal stadium which Sir Robert also built.

Also, we delivered the mechanical subcontract on White City for Westfield and thanks to that going well we’re now in the same position on Westfield’s ВЈ1bn  Stratford development which is starting now. It’s a two-year project. Also two-stage, the final figure is not formalised yet. There are no delays – in fact we’re ahead right now.

Is the economic downturn bringing back competitive tendering?

Educated clients still prefer two-stage as they are looking for value for money and that is not always the same as accepting the cheapest bid. These people are sticking to what has delivered them value in the past.

What is happening with wages?

If you’re hiring on the market then it’s certainly less competitive and you can get a better quality person at a fair price – I’m talking here of skills such as engineers, site supervisors and project managers.

That said, if a company is facing a squeeze and one of a team of 10 has to go, then it’s the worst one of the 10 who ends up out there on the jobs market as the best guys are the last one to be let go.

On top of that, good people are more inclined to stay where they are right now.

For senior people we don’t advertise, we use a head-hunter.

You do see good guys working for your clients but you can’t pinch them – you’ve got to respect your clients.

We’re still heavily involved in training as this is our preferred route.

How long will the recession last?

It’s not going to be short. My best case scenario envisages that towards the end of this year things will start to level out.  In the last recession a lot of good people were lost to the construction industry and many firms cut back on training. I hope neither of these things happen this time.

What is happening to your supply chain?

Imtech needs to protect its supply chain – as do other contractors. Imtech’s big objective this year is to drive out inefficiencies in our business and we’re working on this in conjunction with our supply chain subcontractors.

There is a lot of waste in the industry, a result of a huge amount of inefficiency, and our big focus in 2009 is going to be on this.

Some of our supply chain firms have been with us for 10-14 years and we’re working now to help them.

Your supply chain lists will be shortened?

Yes. Some are long and others are short, very short. Imtech’s London operation is the biggest, with a turnover of £75m-£80m a year, and its supply chain contains 60 subcontractors. That number will fall to 30.

We’re also talking to our materials providers on things such as resource management.

Sixteen years ago, in the last recession, you were managing director of Kentz when it went bust.  You were aged 45 at the time and without a job.  How did you pick yourself up after that?

Yes 45 and no job вЂ“ and on top of that Kentz’s final salary pension scheme was sucked down, leaving us with only 20% of our anticipated entitlement.

That’s when I started Meica with two colleagues which was the first block in what is now the Imtech group.

There were eight of us in all and we started from zero and built up a business with a ВЈ250m-a-year turnover from a standing start.

I was driving a ВЈ3,000 Jaguar and, like all the others, I had a mortgage to cover.  But we were all pleased to have a job and were prepared to work hard.

The first award was a £9,500 job for Trollope & Colls – part of what was Trafalgar House – and we were working at Madame Tussauds.

That recession took out the weaker players – could this one do the same?

Yes, that’s why Imtech’s financial strength should be a growing advantage over the coming 12 months and onwards.

Autoworkers feel stuck between buyouts, possible future cuts
M. Tangredi Restaurants’ executive indicted on charges of fraud
Costain makes 2.3% margin on ВЈ1bn turnover

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Association of Colleges's anger over college building delays

The Association of Colleges has accused the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) of mismanagement after some colleges have been left in chaos after starting rebuilding projects only to have funding withheld.

Eight schemes have been given the go-ahead but another 144 around England have been put on hold indefinitely.

But colleges claimed they were told the money would come through and spent millions on starting work, according to the BBC.

The total projected overspend across the country exceeds ВЈ3bn.

The president of the Association of Colleges, David Collins said: "It beggars belief. I don't think there can be any reason other than mismanagement. It's an incredible situation to be in."

He called for the Treasury to intervene, arguing that continuing the work to colleges would be a far better use of public money than covering the banks' toxic debts.


Association of Collegess anger over college building delays


The BBC said that the LSC had not provided a response, but had previously portrayed the college rebuilding scheme as being a victim of its own success.

A spokeswoman from the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills said the LSC had informed them that it had given 79 colleges the first stage of approval in principle and government funding of nearly ВЈ2.7bn would be needed for them to proceed.

Madoff victims worry plea could deny justice
Taxpayers aren’t likely to get AIG money back
Top 5 construction tenders - 12 March 2009
£200m boost for university building

SIG in bid to raise ВЈ341m as profits drop 73%

Insulation and materials firm SIG has revealed plans to raise ВЈ341m in a discounted share placing to combat its debts, as it posted a 73% drop in full-year profits.

The company, which has been hit by a downturn in building and construction work during 2008, has a net debt of ВЈ697m.

It has closed 80 trading sites and made around 1,020 staff redundant - the equivalent of around 7% of its workforce.

The group will now issue 455m shares at 75p each, below its closing share price of 105p yesterday.

Pre-tax profit fell 73% for ВЈ33.1m for the 12 months to December 2008. The company predicted that 2009 would remain "very challenging" for the parts of its business most exposed to the housing market and that demand from the non-residential sector had also been subdued so far.

Briefs: Healthways to settle lawsuit
Work on Bible theme park suspended in Lebanon
New Considerate Constructors programme set for July launch

Wrekin ruby saga - Tanzania gem now on eBay

The elusive ruby known as “The Gem of Tanzania” has surfaced on eBay. Although there are some strong indications that it may not be the real one.

The sales pitch accompanying the sparkler describes it as being “ideal collateral for bank lending” and “helps boost your balance sheet”.

Thirteen eager bidders have already succeeded in pushing the price to the dizzy height of £12.50 which illustrates the fickle nature of valuable gems – something worth a mere £300,000 in 2006 could rise to £11m within the space of less than a year, yet still crash to the ground in a near-worthless fashion within two years.

One would-be eBay buyer has posed the questions: “I am a bit short of cash at the moment, would you take shares in exchange?” The seller’s reply was: “Only if they are preference shares.”


Wrekin ruby saga - Tanzania gem now on eBay


Another interested party who offered a $100 trillion Zimbabwe note got short shift.

A third, who claimed to be an ex-Wrekin employee said:

"I would realy like to own this gem, to go along side my mug, pen, and umbrella. How much for buy it now?"

To which the response came: "How about a straight swap for the mug, pen and umbrella?"

ContractJournal.com asked a spokesman for Wrekin's administrator Ernst & Young if he might be interested in making a potential £11m fortune by putting in a bid himself said. “No,” he said.

Wrekin ruby saga - valuation jumped from £300,000 to £11m
Wrekin Construction empire built on ВЈ11m ruby gemstone

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

PFI bailout supremo confirmed

Andrew Rose, executive director at Partnerships UK, will head up the newly formed Treasury PFI debt bridging finance team.

The team will oversee the Government’s PFI debt funding package, set up earlier this month in the face of the international debt crisis.

The Treasury debt funding unit will be the first port of call for PFI schemes struggling to raise debt finance. It will consider all applications for senior debt with a brief to lend up to a 100% of the funding needed on a PFI scheme, if deemed appropriate.

Rose comes with relevant experience. He joined PUK in 2005 after a seventeen year career as a senior invesatment banker at Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC). He headed up the investment banking division, overseeing the bank’s infrastructure team and  was chairman of the bank’s credit and deals committee for the European region.

Rose's team will be made up of Treasury officials and project financiers

Utilities could struggle to fund ВЈ40bn new nuclear programme
Taxpayers aren’t likely to get AIG money back

Wrekin ruby saga - valuation jumped from £300,000 to £11m

Ashgates, the Derby-based accountancy group that signed off Tamar’s 2007 accounts has adopted a low profile over its acceptance of the £11m valuation of ruby known as “The Gem of Tanzania”.

In the previous year and with different accountants checking its books, Tamar claimed ownership of a gemstone worth just ВЈ300,000.

But it was the £11m valuation that allowed David Unwin, Tamar’s owner, to walk into Wrekin Construction two years ago as its white knight, a much needed appearance given the parlous state of the company’s finances as a result of losses run up while former owner Simon Crain and John Worthington, chief executive, set the agenda.

Ashgates is based at 5 Prospect Place, Millennium Way, Pride Park, Derby.


Wrekin ruby saga - valuation jumped from £300,000 to £11m


When contacted today, Ashgates refused to discuss the gem. Requests were turned down with the reply: “We can’t comment.”

The gem’s value was authenticated according to accounts signed off by Ashgates at £11m thanks to a valuation said to have come from the Instituto Gemmologica Italiano (IGI) in its Valenza.

But IGI has subsequently said it was closed on the date of the claimed valuation and that its range of services only runs as far as quality checks and never to actual valuations.

Ashgates took on the role of accountants to Tamar after the group’s 2006 books were drawn up by a different accountancy firm called Paterson Brodie which is based in Longton, Stoke-on-Trent.

Tamar’s accounts for the 12 months to 31 December 2006 do include a gemstone amongst its list of assets – only this time valued at a more modest figure of £300,000.

The questions that former Wrekin Construction employees would no doubt expect Ashgates to help provide answers to are:

1 Was it the same gemstone?

2 Can Ashgates publish the gem's valuation certificate?

3 If it was the same gem, why did the value rise so dramatically?

3 If no, where did the previous gemstone go and where did the replacement come from?

VantagePointe development planned
Wrekin Construction empire built on ВЈ11m ruby gemstone
Briefs: Healthways to settle lawsuit