Balfour Beatty limits Brexit damage with increased profits

Balfour Beatty has delivered increased profitability despite “unprecedented levels” of Brexit uncertainty, the firm revealed today.

Leo Quinn

Announcing its 2019 half-year results, the company said it was on track to deliver full-year performance in line with market expectations as underlying profit from operations (PFO) increased 9% to £72 million (2018: £66m) and PFO from earnings-based businesses increased 29% to £63m (2018: £49m).

A strong cash performance saw a significant increase in average net cash at £290m (2018: £161m), while the full-year average net cash guidance range was increased by £50m to £280m-£300m.

Balfour Beatty said its order book increased 5% to £13.2 billion (FY 2018: £12.6bn).

Leo Quinn, group chief executive, said: “This is another strong set of results – increasing profits backed by a strong cash performance, plus carefully managed growth in our order book.

“Today, the group’s geographic and operational diversity underpins our risk management, with over 50% of our business and Investments portfolio assets outside the UK.

“Combined with the strength of our balance sheet and cash flows, this positions Balfour Beatty to create and return future value to shareholders.”

In its independent review report to Balfour Beatty, accountants described Brexit was “one of the most significant economic events for the UK” adding that “its effects are subject to unprecedented levels of uncertainty of outcomes, with the full range of possible effects unknown”.

Investors said Balfour Beatty’s increasing workload in the US has limited its exposure to the impact of Brexit in the UK.

John Moore, senior investment manager at Brewin Dolphin, said: “I am sure that Balfour Beatty’s management has wanted to prove it is different to some of its peers and today’s update goes some way towards making that statement. Underlying profits are up, as is net cash, and the business has hiked its dividend by nearly one-third.

“Balfour Beatty’s exposure to the US and its decision to walk away from low margin and complex joint ventures do set it apart from other operators in the outsourcing and infrastructure markets – the depth of its balance sheet has also helped. It’s a decent performance from the business, but in the short term the company may continue to be tarnished with the same brush as its competitors – despite improvements noted in its update, the shares are down around 30% on a year ago.”

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