Balfour Beatty shareholders are set to cash in on a six-fold hike in dividends after the group’s annual operating profits surpassed expectations.
The infrastructure business has recommended a 9p per share dividend, equivalent to around £57million, compared to just 1.5p in the prior year when the outbreak of Covid-19 caused it to temporarily suspend investor payouts.
Balfour Beatty will also up its share buyback programme for this year by another £50million, having announced back in December that it would purchase at least £100million of its own shares.
Acquisition: Balfour Beatty will up its share buyback scheme for 2022 by another £50million, having declared in December that it would purchase at least £100million of its own shares
The company reported a significant recovery in demfor building projects in Britain, which helped underlying earnings nearly quadruple from 2020 to £197million, even though its overall revenue declined by over £300million.
Balfour Beatty said this was primarily due to a drop in trade at its US construction arm its Hong Kong-based joint venture Gammon offsetting higher revenues at its UK construction division.
Among the projects that the firm is currently working on are the high-speed railway line HS2 Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant, where it recently completed an outfall tunnel for the scheme’s cooling water system.
In addition, the FTSE 250 multinational finished an upgrade of the A19 road earlier than planned handed over the Woolwich Whitechapel stations to Crossrail ahead of the Elizabeth Line’s planned opening sometime this year.
While is British construction business returned to profit in the second half of the year, it still made a slight underlying loss of £2million.
But this was down from an underlying loss of £26million in 2020, which it blamed on its withdrawal from three Central London private sector property projects.
By comparison, Balfour Beatty’s support services division disclosed its operating earnings more than doubled to just over £100million, thanks to its decision to exit the water gas industries.
Major schemes: Among the projects Balfour Beatty is currently working on include the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant (pictured) high-speed railway line HS2
A further bonus came from completing its work on the Eleclink project, an electrical interconnector running through the Channel Tunnel designed to help provide more renewable energy to homes in the UK France.
Its US construction segment also saw underlying earnings almost double to £51million, while Gammon’s profits remained flat at £30million, both of which were in line with pre-pandemic levels.
Meanwhile, the value of Gammon’s order book jumped by 24 per cent after gaining contracts to build seven new residential buildings an office tower in Hong Kong, as well as tunnels a station on Singapore’s Mass Rapid Transit system.
Chief executive Leo Quinn said: ‘Balfour Beatty emerges from the last two years with capabilities intact a higher quality order book. Together these provide the visibility to deliver profitable managed growth sustainable cash generation.
‘With a transformed portfolio focused on favourable infrastructure markets across our chosen geographies our sector-leading balance sheet, we are confident of delivering significant future returns to shareholders.’
Looking ahead, the company is hoping to reap some considerable benefit from the successful passage of the $1.2trillion Infrastructure Investment Jobs Act that was signed into law by US President Joe Biden in November.
The legislation includes $550billion of new spending, with around 20 per cent destined for building repairing bridges roads, $66billion for rail projects, $25billion for upgrading airports.
Balfour Beatty shares rose 5 per cent to 243.4p on Thursday, making it one of the top five risers on the FTSE 250 Index. However, their value has declined by around a fifth over the last 12 months.