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Middle Eastern expansion keeps Laings on track

Laing O'Rourke's decision to move into the Middle East will keep the contractor's growth plans on track despite a slowdown in the European market, the company's chief operating officer for Europe Tony Douglas said this week.

Of the contractor's £10bn forward order book, a quarter is for Middle East projects including the enormous £20bn, 10 year long Al Raha Beach scheme in Abu Dhabi, where the company is a delivery partner.

“We have been shifting many of our high end capability engineers out to the Middle East," Douglas said.

Forward orders for Europe remain healthy however at £6bn up from £3.4bn for the 2007-8 financial year.

The company shifted out of the residential sector 12 months ago – apart from the 1 Hyde Park project and now has even mix of public and private sector work which should help shield it from any downturn.

Annual results for 2007-8 were turnover up 21.5% to £4.24bn and pretax profit up 86% to £81.2M. The company has cash of £477M on deposit and net cash is £137M.

"We are still intending to grow at around 20% and as the market consolidates we think we will be a consolidator," Douglas said, stressing that the firm would only buy companies with "high quality" earnings potential.

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