Harrison, 53, will join chief executive Leo Quinn in trying to revive the battered reputation of the company, whose board departures, profit warnings and plunging share price have left it vulnerable to a takeover, according to analysts.
Numis Securities’ Howard Seymour said Harrison’s experience of dealing with large and complex international businesses at VT Group should be welcomed by investors.
“He has got a lot of expertise in high quality companies and that should serve him well.
“It looks to me a very sensible move,” he said.
Last month, Balfour rejected a £1bn offer from John Laing Infrastructure Fund for assets it operates in partnership with government, saying the price was too low.
Balfour said yesterday Harrison would receive a basic annual salary of £400,000, and take over the role from incumbent Duncan Magrath, who will leave the company once a start date is determined later in the year.
The appointment follows a £1.5bn contract win by Balfour on Monday, which will see it provide support services to the public sector ranging from road repairs to light rail schemes.
The company said it had been appointed as the sole contractor to a new UK-wide civil engineering and infrastructure framework for public works.
The company is due to update the market on the findings of accountancy firm KPMG’s review of its struggling UK construction business towards the end of this month.