Reporting results for the six months to December, Kier said the swollen order book set the firm up for profitable growth in the year ahead with 60% secured under target cost or cost-reimbursable contracts with an average order size of £14m.
Over the period, group pre-tax profit doubled to £25m from level revenue of £1.5bn. This saw adjusted operation margin rise to 3.7%, exceeding Kier’s own 3.5% medium term target.
But despite improved trading, Kier’s still battles with high average month-end net debt which has now jumped again to £243m.
Andrew Davies, chief executive, said that the 27% rise from debt of £191m previously was driven by seasonal working capital requirements and a £50m cash outflow to close its KEPS supply chain finance facility.
Kier now hopes to begin to pay down debt in 2024 as it benefits from future strong cash inflows off its large order book.
Davies said: “The strong performance of the group over the last six months reflects our enhanced resilience and strengthened financial position.
“Our order book has increased significantly against the prior year, reflecting a large number of contract wins across our divisions and this provides us with good, multi-year revenue visibility. These awards reflect the bidding discipline and risk management now embedded in the business.
“Looking ahead, we expect to generate positive operating cashflow for the full year and deliver a net cash position at the year-end. Current trading remains in line with the board’s expectations despite political and economic uncertainties.
“The Group is well positioned to continue benefiting from UK Government infrastructure spending commitments and focused on the delivery of a sustainable net cash position and a sustainable dividend, in line with our medium-term value creation plan.”
Both our Infrastructure Services and Construction divisions performed well, more than offsetting Property which experienced a fall in transactions.
Construction drove profit growth at the group doubling operating profit to £26m off revenue up 4% to £709m. This represented an adjusted operating margin of 4.6%.
Revenue at Infrastructure edged up 5% to £818m although operating profit was level at £22m, representing a margin of 3%.