Review of construction contracts for October 2020: Research from Builders’ Conference Trade Body

The UK construction industry soldiered on through the first COVID-19 lockdown.   Now, as the shutters come down for a second time, it looks set to do the same again. Builders’ Conference CEO Neil Edwards reflects on another positive month for an industry that refuses to admit defeat (all research carried out by Builders’ Conference).

There is a famous scene in the movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” in which the Black Knight (played by John Cleese) refuses to concede defeat even after sustaining horrendous injuries. When his sword-wielding arm is lopped off by King Arthur (Graham Chapman), the Black Knight proclaims “tis but a scratch”.

Channelling its inner Black Knight and to its enormous credit, the UK construction industry still refuses to accept the severity of the current situation. In the run-up to the first two planned Brexit departure dates, the sector posted record figures. Amidst the first national Coronavirus lockdown, the sector embraced its “key worker” status and soldiered on even as the country came to a standstill. Now, in the face of a second national lockdown, renewed Brexit fears and economic jitters over the outcome of the US residential election, construction is doing it again.

October normally marks the beginning of the inexorable slide towards a festive slow-down. But as further evidence that we are all now living in a “new normal”, the sector abandoned tradition and instead recorded a hugely positive £6.35 billion in new contract awards on the BCLive league table this past month.

That monthly figure was unquestionably buoyed by a single £1.0 billion contract. That contract – won by a Sigma Capital and EGT Real Estate joint venture – is for the creation of up to 3,000 private rental homes across Greater London. The joint venture has launched with the acquisition of five sites from Countryside Properties in Ealing, Enfield and Havering. Two further sites are currently under development at Fresh Wharf in Barking and Beam Park in Havering.

Another property company benefitting from the on-going rise and rise of the UK housing sector is Ballymore Properties which rocketed to the number two slot on the BCLive league table in October, courtesy of a single £500 million contract award. The company plans to develop 1,500 new homes at Mill Harbour on London’s Isle of Dogs. That development will also create 14,000 m2 of education space together with a further 6,000 m2 of commercial space.

Rocketing into third position on the BCLive league table is Graham Construction, simultaneously providing a much-needed shot in the arm for a Scottish sector still emerging from COVID-19 restrictions. The company picked up a total of four new contract awards during the month worth a combined £346 million. The most notable of these is a £230 million hospital new build at the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. That project – The Baird Family Hospital & The Anchor Centre – includes an oncology centre for day patients, a pharmacy, research and teaching facilities, and non-clinical support services.

With a single project that sounds like the punch line to an industry joke, Amey won a £250 million contract for the refurbishment and repair of the Severn Bridge, Avonmouth Bridge and the M4 Prince of Wales Bridge. Spread over 15 years, that contract includes daily inspections, safety patrols and cyclic maintenance of these key structures.

In a month in which 15 companies picked up more than £100 million in new contract awards, L&Q Group took the number five position with six projects valued at a combined £227 million. Sixth position went to Countryside Properties, which reported three new contract awards worth a combined £226 million.

It was a good month for Wilmot Dixon, which collected 11 new contract awards worth a total of £162 million.   Kier Group maintained its reputation for a new contract award for each working day with 22 new projects valued at a total of £152 million.

In a month that was once again dominated by the house-building sector, which contributed more than half the monthly league table total (£3.7 billion), there were welcome green shoots in health (£569 million) roads (£496 million) and education (£457 million) categories.

London once again led the regional countdown with 114 new contract awards valued at a combined £2.3 billion.   But Scotland (£635 million), West Midlands (£534 million) and the South West region (£515 million) also enjoyed a positive month that concluded with the announcement of a second national lockdown.

Quite how long construction’s resilience can hold out against this seemingly endless bad news onslaught is anyone’s guess.   But after working through the first lockdown and having shrugged off its economic fallout, the sector seems likely to greet the latest lockdown with “it’s just a flesh wound”.

Quick review of BCLive table for October 2020

  • 301 no companies were detailed as winning new contracts during October 2020
  • 482 no new construction orders were researched by Builders’ Conference all detailed on our UNIQUE BCLive league table
  • JV between Sigma Capital and EGT Real Estate secured overall top spot with £1.0 billion
  • Kier Group secured most number of new construction orders in the month with 22no totaling £152 million