Hills Building Services goes bust as M&E crisis worsens

| Tue 20th November | 7:47

The sharp downturn in building services work and cut-throat bidding has claimed another high profile M&E contractor.

London-based Hills Building Services has been wound up by its owners, the £30m Lowe & Oliver Group, after just four years in control of the City of London M&E contractor.

Originally part of Hills Electrical, Hills Building Services was bought by Oxford-based Lowe & Oliver four years ago from Southern Electric Contracting.

But in the last few years it struggled in the downturn and was forced to axe staff numbers from around 30 to just 15 after turning in a pre-tax loss of £97,000 in 2011 on turnover of just £5m.

This month the Lowe & Oliver building services group, which boasts a Royal Warrant, gave up the battle, placing the firm in voluntary liquidation with debts of nearly £1.2m.

Over 70% of Hills’ work was for main contractors such as Bovis, Overbury and Mitie carrying out category A+B fit outs within the City of London.

The firm carried out shell and core works in London for clients such as M+S, Stanhope, Prudential, Standard Life and Land Securities with values ranging from £1-6m.

The collapse highlights the serious stresses being felt in the M&E sector, with several high profile players like MJ Coulston, Airedale M&E and parts of Rotary going under along with a welter of smaller regional firms.

This week Mitie warned it was exiting major one-off M&E work blaming poor returns.

While T Clarke last week warned high numbers of bidders and unrealistic pricing levels were blighting the hard-pressed sector.

According to trade body B&ES almost one in three building services contractors have seen workloads fall off so far this year with half reporting tender prices lower than six months ago.

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