Laing O'Rourke triples accountant payouts after enduring "comprehensive" audit

 
Oliver Gill
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View of the construction site of the Pol
Laing O'Rourke is hoping to agree new terms with lenders over the coming months (Source: Getty)

Laing O'Rourke's UK auditor has bagged bumper fees for signing off the troubled contractor's long overdue accounts.

PwC saw fees more than triple, according to financial statements lodged today with Companies House.

Total UK auditor remuneration leapt to £3.2m for the year to March 2017 from £900,000 the year before.

The contractor said the jump in fees was a result of PwC's "comprehensive audit", which included additional complex elements. Work was extended over a longer time period "amid a challenging external environment".

Last week Laing O'Rourke Corporation Limited – the UK firm's Cypriot parent – revealed it was in a race against time to secure a lender rescue package after finalising financial statements 11 months after the year-end. The UK plc was due to file accounts at the end of September 2017.

Sign-offs by Big Four accountants such as PwC have been thrust under a spotlight in the wake of Carillion's failure earlier this year. Last month, a parliamentary inquiry accused accountancy firms of "feasting" on the firm as it headed towards insolvency.

Read more: Laing O'Rourke says its accounts will be delayed again

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Laing O'Rourke employs around 15,000 people in the UK and is responsible for building some of Britain's biggest infrastructure projects such as the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station and the HS2 rail link.

The firm has secured interim support from its banking syndicate, led by HSBC. It is hoping to finalise terms on a refinancing by June.

A spokesperson for Laing O'Rourke said:

PwC undertook a comprehensive audit of the business. That process included assessment of our complex Canadian hospital contract, the extended time period of the audit and the depth of our successful transformation programme, amid a challenging external environment. This is reflected in the fees paid to PwC.

PwC declined to comment.

Separately, Laing O'Rourke's financial director Stewart McIntyre has criticised the contracting sector for chasing volumes, according to reports.

Profit margins should better represent the level of risk taken on; the sector should not price contracts according to what customers will tolerate, McIntyre told Construction News.

Laing O'Rourke received some good news last Wednesday, winning a AU$955m (£539m) contract to build Sydney Central station.

Read more: Learning from Carillion? MP inquiries must shed more light than heat

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