Will Balfour Beatty’s UK construction head replace McNaughton as CEO?

Suzie Neuwirth

Amid the doom and gloom of infrastructure firm Balfour Beatty’s third profit warning in 18 months, chief executive Andrew McNaughton stepped down “with immediate effect” today.

It is understood that McNaughton was pushed out, rather than bowed out, as the FTSE 250 firm looks to turn around its flailing balance sheet. Shares plunged over 17 per cent this morning on the news and continue to slide.

The company will be hiring head hunters shortly to find McNaughton’ successor (non-exec chairman Steve Marshall is steering the helm in the interim) but of course, the market is already speculating over who will take on the role.

While it is still very early days, the top name bandied about has been Nick Pollard, the head of Balfour’s construction services UK division.

Balfour has brought in a new strategy today – namely the decision to look into selling its engineering consultancy Parsons Brinckerhoff, which it bought back in 2009 for $626m (£369m) and makes up one of the biggest parts of the business.

One view is that with the strategy already in place, it makes more sense to take on an internal candidate, particularly one who worked on that strategy (like Pollard).

Adding fuel to the fire is today’s analysts call, which had the finance director, the chairman and….you guessed it, Pollard taking questions. A very prominent position for a divisional head.

Pollard has 30 years’ experience within the infrastructure market, including senior roles with Network Rail. He was chief executive of Bovis Lend Lease UK and held independent advisory positions for the likes of Transport for London and the Cabinet Office.

He has been a troubleshooter for the company for a while and some think he’d like the opportunity to get his teeth into the top role.

The only problem that immediately springs to mind is the fact that he’s currently heading up such a poorly-performing division. While UK construction is starting to recover, Balfour is not – whether this will blight Pollard’s progress, we shall have to wait and see.