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Miller profits in face of adversity

MILLER SAW profits soar in 1997, despite losing 15% of its staff and having to pay a departing director £109,000.

The Edinburgh-based contractor reported pre-tax profit up 17.8% to £13.4M on a turnover down 3% at £298.6M.

The most important contribution came from the property and housing divisions, while contracting enjoyed a steady year. Contributions from 'associated undertakings' and net interest, both linked to the property operation, rose by £1.9M. The housing division's operating profits rose 113% to £2.5M.

But its contracting division experienced only a 3.5% rise in operating profit to £4.5M. Turnover fell 4.3% to £224M, producing a marginal improvement in margins.

Both in civils - where the order book has swelled from £40M to £127M - and in building, increased use of partnering and a move to larger contracts was the name of the game.

This switch to larger projects, chief executive Keith Miller claimed, accounted for staff numbers falling from 2,192 to 1,861 and for a steep rise in average pay from £21,361 to £25,826 - reflecting the higher quality staff needed on prestigious projects.

In contracting, 51% of new projects were won by direct negotiation or through partnering. Miller claimed the firm had been able to persuade clients to provide the proper rewards for the extra effort put in on these jobs. 'There are still some clients who don't have a proper understanding of what makes partnering work', he said. 'We avoid them.'

The report also revealed that Arthur Milson, the executive director responsible for Miller Homes who left in May, was paid £109,000 'compensation for loss of office'.

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