Keltbray halves losses due to surge in infrastructure work

Keltbray cut its pre-tax losses to £4.2m as its infrastructure business was boosted back to pre-COVID levels.

The government’s £640bn National Infrastructure Strategy (NIS) was touted as the principal reason for the strong infrastructure showing, with Keltbray chairman Brendan Kerr calling it the “highest levels of investment seen in decades”.

In the year to 31 October 2021, Keltbray penned a pre-tax loss of £4.2m, compared with the £9.4m loss it reported in the previous year. The first drop into the red was blamed on the pandemic.

The firm’s turnover also slipped from £428.6m to £389.5m.

Keltbray group financial officer Peter Burnside said the infrastructure and rail divisions were able to perform on a “business as usual basis” during the pandemic.

He also highlighted the firm’s purchase of NMCN’s highways and infrastructure assets as “key” to the division’s strong performance.

Keltbray bought the assets in October 2021, after NMCN entered into administration earlier that month.

“This is a further endorsement of the group’s diversification strategy to create a range of income drivers that are not impacted by the same economic cycles,” Burnside said.

On top of that, he expects investment in the UK’s railways to continue, following the confirmation of HS2 phase one and phase 2a. Burnside pinpoints the Northern Powerhouse Rail programme in particular as an opportunity for Keltbray.

Shutdowns due to the pandemic were blamed for the slip in overall revenue, although a spokesperson said a “more careful approach” to tendering was also a reason for the drop. But Burnside said Keltbray had produced a “highly creditable performance”.

“The performance was the reward for maintaining our focus on product delivery control, selective tendering, cash management and disciplined cost containment,” he added.

The company’s order book, meanwhile, rose by 38 per cent to £310m.

Looking ahead, Burnside said the UK outlook was “increasingly optimistic”, but he warned that market challenges were set to remain “challenging”, with pricing levels “very competitive” for some time to come. That is mainly due to the uncertainty caused by the war in Ukraine.

“We will continue to be extremely selective in our opportunity selection and tendering processes,” he added.

A spokesperson for the company said Keltbray was “certainly looking at a stronger performance in the coming year”, particularly with regard to decreasing the pre-tax loss again. “We are hoping to better those numbers in the year to 2022.”

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