Ray O’Rourke pledges to harness construction’s ‘appetite for change’

Laing O’Rourke chief executive Ray O’Rourke has pledged that the firm will transform ways of working in the business, as it harnesses an appetite for change in the construction sector amid the coronavirus pandemic.

O’Rourke’s comments came as the business reported a £41.4m pretax profit for the year to 31 March 2021, down from £45.5m the year before. The company has a £7.9bn order book and has reduced its bank debt by £56m over the most recent financial year and by a further £126m since the year end.

It has now terminated a multi-bank financing arrangement in place since 2016 and replaced it with an unsecured, sustainability-linked Revolving Credit Facility for £35m with HSBC, under “more agile” terms and conditions. 

O’Rourke said: “The financial year saw us continue to deliver against our commitments to all stakeholders and dedicate ourselves to tackling the limiting factors of our industry; the roadblocks that still shackle construction to out-of-date practices and limit productivity.

“The pandemic has triggered the mindset shift that construction needed. It would now be negligent of us not to harness this appetite for change in our sector, which is of national strategic importance and can lead the economic fightback from covid-19.

“To that end, Laing O’Rourke will invest more time and energy transforming ways of working. Our ‘Trades to Technicians’ approach will provide safe, stimulating and rewarding careers at the frontline of construction. We are developing more inclusive, low-risk environments for our people, closer to home, to attract new talent from diverse communities to the world’s most exciting industry.”

Laing O’Rourke’s latest results were contained in its 20th annual report since the 2001 acquisition of Laing Construction by R O’Rourke & Son.

Unprecedented challenges

Laing O’Rourke chief financial officer, Rowan Baker, said: “The year ending 31 March 2021 was a time of unprecedented challenges for our business, the sector, and the world over – as governments, communities and industry responded to the covid-19 pandemic.

“Project and productivity impacts affected the first four months of the year, but our people worked tirelessly to keep our sites and supply chain moving.”

Baker said the group resumed full operations in the second half of FY21, delivering an overall 2% full-year increase in revenue year-on-year to £2.5bn (FY20: £2.4bn), a full year profit before interest and tax of £69.9m (FY20: £72.9m) and EBITDA of £114.8m (FY20: £121.6m). 

“There was a significant net cash improvement during the year of £120.9m, and we finished FY21 with net cash of £276.1m. These solid results and strong cash positions enabled us to accelerate the restructure of our debt facilities and set the foundations for future growth,” he said.

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