During 2020, Wates managed to just remain in the black with pre-tax profit including contributions from joint ventures at £1.7m on revenue down by around 11% to £1.4bn.
Strong cash management has left room to invest £100m over coming years, which will mainly be deployed to grow Wates Residential and strengthen the group’s new integrated service division.
Wates Residential increased its turnover by 21% and accounted for just over half of all work won across the group, including its appointment as development partner for Harrow Council’s £600m, 1,500-home regeneration scheme.
Covid cost Wates £11.4m as it met the challenges of lockdown and new ways of site working, also dragging revenue to its lowest level in five years.
Part of the exceptional cost came from a group-wide restructuring leading to 268 redundancies, lowering headcount to around 3,560 staff.
During the year, Wates took £7.7m in Government job retention payments, which the firm said it would not be repaying after making a total tax contribution of £107m to the Exchequer as a UK registered company.
As a result of the challenges last year Wates also suspended bonuses and dividends.
David Allen, chief executive, said: “That we finished 2020 with a positive result is a credit to the remarkable efforts, resilience and adaptability of everyone at Wates.
“The pandemic challenged us to work in different ways and to adapt. We reorganised our business to focus on helping to tackle the UK’s housing shortage, supporting the public sector to build back better and investing in the modern methods of construction that will enable us to meet our customer’s needs in the future.”
Allen said private sector clients were now returning to the market with office projects and Wates was hopeful of boosting its portfolio of science and technology projects with further new orders shortly.
Bid teams secured £2.4bn of new work last year boosting the group order book by nearly 14%.
Allen said: “Together, we have set the business up to succeed and we remain committed to our goal of becoming the most sustainable, trusted and progressive business in the sector.”
Wates ended the year with £162m of net cash, which was £50.8m up on 2019. Average daily cash stood at £88m giving the business an investment war chest to grow the business over the coming years.