Henry Boot returns to half-year profit amid tough markets

CONSTRUCTION group Henry Boot said it is confident it can trade through swingeing public sector cuts and continues to shift its attention to private work.

The Sheffield firm today returned to half-year pre-tax profit, reporting a 9m surplus for the first six months compared with 20.3m losses a year ago. However, revenues were down to 55.1m from 67m a year earlier.

Henry Boot said it has seen the property market improve from its low in mid-2009, but added conditions remain challenging with little improvement expected in the near future.

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Its portfolio of investment properties began to increase in value once more, notching up a 1.7m revaluation surplus.

"Like others in the sector, we anticipate a further reduction in public sector opportunities following the Comprehensive Spending Review in October 2010 so we focused on continuing to increase our private sector client base," said chairman John Reis.

"Whilst current trading remains reasonably robust we are very mindful that the well publicised spending cuts will have an impact on the level of work being put to the market as a whole. We have acted quickly to reduce our cost base and are confident that we can trade through these anticipated challenges satisfactorily.

The group proposed an increased interim dividend of 1.35p a share, compared with 1.25p a year earlier.