Scaffolding firms have rebounded from the pandemic-driven downturn with rises in revenue and profit. The sector had the highest median average pre-tax margin of any of the seven specialisms in the CN Specialists Index 2022, at 6.6 per cent. This was up a remarkable 4.9 percentage points on 2021’s 1.8 per cent.
Last year’s figure was the only time in the past five years that the average margin among the top 10 scaffolding contractors fell below 6.4 per cent, it having also been the specialism with the highest margin in both 2019 and 2020. In the 2022 index, revenue for the top 10 firms was boosted from an aggregate £641.3m to £793m, with only three reporting negative growth compared with eight last year.
“Skill shortages have led to a spiralling of scaffolders’ wages. We are unable to recover the costs – most scaffolding contractors are on fixed-price contracts”
Des Moore, Trad
Kaefer leads the board with a £234.1m turnover, up 89 per cent on last year’s £124m. The increase is partly due to its integration of Wood Group Industrial Services, which it acquired in 2020, but also thanks to “ongoing recovery” from the pandemic, according to its latest accounts, which cover the year to 31 December 2021. Revenue growth in the other nine ranged from a 38 per cent increase for PHD Modular Access to 14 per cent negative growth at D&B Scaffolding.
Last year’s £18.5m drop in aggregate pre-tax profit has turned into a £37.8m rise this year with tenfold increases for Altrad UK and Trad Group.
Trad Group saw the second-biggest proportional rise in profit thanks in part to the hire side of its business, which made a £15.5m pre-tax profit compared with a £1.3m loss at Trad Scaffolding, the other part of the group. Its margin improved by 20.5 per cent, partly due to having folded subsidiary Trad Safety Systems into Trad Hire & Sales.
Trad chief executive Des Moore says there had been a significant drive towards hiring equipment in the past eight to 12 months amid on-going nervousness in the markets about costs. Many scaffolding hire and sales companies had previously bought up significant levels of equipment because of the earlier volatility in the market during the pandemic, he adds. “Now they’re reluctant to buy and, as a result, manufacturers are restricting supply to drive prices up again.”
Volatility and shortages
Material costs, price volatility, labour shortages and consequent spiralling wages have been flagged in the accounts of several firms as being market pressures. Rugby-based Peri said in its accounts: “Unwelcome pressure on raw material availability and prices affected both Peri and its customers to an extent that we had not experienced for a long time.”
Meanwhile, GKR Scaffolding’s accounts stated: “With price volatility, especially for steel, expected to continue throughout the next reporting period, the business has put enhanced planning in place to optimise use of our own materials supply.”
Trad’s Moore describes the skills shortage in and around London, where it operates, as “extremely challenging”. “These shortages have led to a spiralling of scaffolders’ wages,” he says. “We are unable to recover the costs of those, as we and most other scaffolding contractors are on fixed-price contracts.”
On the positive side, there has been an increase in activity in the Midlands and the North from HS2 work and amid the government’s levelling-up agenda. “The challenge for the next year is the impending talk about recession and the cost of living crisis,” he adds.
|2022||2021||Change||Company||Latest revenue (£m)||Previous revenue (£m)||Change (£m)||Latest pre-tax profit (£m)||Previous pre-tax profit (£m)||Latest pre-tax margin (%)||Previous pre-tax margin (%)||Financial Year Ending|
|9||9||0||PHD Modular Access||24.0||17.4||6.6||3.9||0.5||16.1%||2.9%||31/08/2021|