Balfour books rising profits despite slump

SHARES in construction firm Balfour Beatty jumped yesterday after it reported a 14 per cent rise in first-half pre-tax profits. <br /><br />The group reported pre-tax profits of &pound;108m for the six months to 27 June, up from &pound;95m in the same period last year, and raised its dividend by eight per cent to 5.5p. <br /><br />Chief executive Ian Tyler said: &ldquo;We have made good progress in growing our business presence in the US, based on the principles which have made our UK business so successful. We have won important contracts in Asia and closed a number of UK projects.&rdquo;<br /><br />Balfour Beatty won four contracts in the first half, including a &pound;1bn contract to widen and maintain London&rsquo;s M25 orbital motorway over the next three to four years.<br /><br />Tyler added: &ldquo;Our strong first half performance, together with the visibility provided by our significant order book of high-quality work, underpins our confidence in the prospects of the group and we anticipate making good progress in 2009.&rdquo;<br /><br />Strong public sector spending helped the group shrug off the recession, with revenues rising to &pound;5.1bn for the first half of the year, 17 per cent higher than the same period in 2008.<br /><br />The group&rsquo;s US arm posted stronger than expected results, offsetting an 18 per cent fall in orders at its building division since the end of 2008, due to currency impacts and the downturn in commercial building markets.<br /><br />Shares in Balfour, which have gained 70 per cent in the past month after tumbling to their lowest point ever in 2009, yesterday rose by eight per cent to 346p.