CN Specialists Index 2023: top 10 demolition contractors

The UK’s 10 largest demolition firms bounced back from the impact of the pandemic. Following a 5 per cent drop in turnover in the 2021 Specialists Index and a flat performance last year, the sector’s big names posted a combined 11 per cent hike this year.

National Federation of Demolition Contractors (NFDC) chief executive Howard Button warned in April that the market would “probably reduce” over the coming decade. But analysis of the latest results from the top 10 demolition firms shows there is no immediate sign of this happening, with combined turnover of £841.7m in their latest annual results for years ending between March and November 2022.

“This year’s figures show a welcome recovery from the pandemic, which had a long-reaching impact on many projects,” the NFDC notes in a statement to Construction News. “The past year, as with previous years, was beset by skills shortages, contractor insolvencies across the built environment, ongoing difficulties in the planning pipeline, disruptive government interventions, and a volatile market.”

Erith replaces Keltbray at the top of the table with a 17 per cent jump in turnover to £191.1m. Keltbray saw its own revenue drop, but this year’s total is lower because CN was provided with demolition-specific turnover. This was not the case for the 2022 index.

Erith and Keltbray were the only companies with a turnover above £100m. Essex-based John F Hunt rises to third in the table with revenue just below that threshold, even including all of its construction operations.

Northumberland-based Thompsons of Prudhoe saw an 83 per cent leap to £61.6m that raises it to sixth in the table. Directors note in the annual accounts that the firm has carried out some “large demolition and dismantling contracts” that boosted takings compared with its Covid-hit 2021.

Combined pre-tax profit levels almost doubled to £37.2m compared with £19.6m in the 2022 index. Six firms in the table experienced profit growth, led by Thompsons of Prudhoe with an 895 per cent rise to £6m. DSM Demolition was the most profitable at £11.1m.

John F Hunt recorded the biggest turnaround, moving from a £2.2m loss to a £5.5m profit in its most recent figures. The group says that its demolition and civils-focused John F Hunt Ltd arm secured a “number of significant contract awards” in the period and “continued to invest in highly experienced and qualified staff”.

The median pre-tax margin of the country’s 10 biggest demolition companies has risen from 3.4 per cent in the 2022 index to 3.9 per cent in the latest analysis.

Although the sector has bounced back from the worst of the pandemic, fresh challenges await. Clients are under greater pressure to reuse rather than replace existing buildings in view of climate change, and the full impact of the cover-bidding scandal had not yet been felt in 2022.

In March this year (after the accounting periods covered by the 2023 index), seven of the contractors in this year’s table – Brown & Mason, Cantillon (now Morrisroe Demolition), DSM, Erith, John F Hunt, Keltbray and McGee –were among 10 firms fined a total of almost £60m following a probe by the Competition and Markets Authority. Keltbray and Squibb are currently appealing their fines.

2022 2021 Change Company Latest revenue (£m) Previous revenue (£m) Change (£m) Latest pre-tax profit (£m) Previous pre-tax profit (£m) Latest pre-tax margin (%) Previous pre-tax margin (%) Financial Year Ending
1 2 1 Erith 191.05 163.35 27.70 3.37 5.41 1.8 3.3 30/09/2022
2 1 -1 Keltbray 130.00 175.60 -45.60 -1.09 -6.40 -0.8 -3.6 31/10/2022
3 5 2 John F Hunt 99.64 69.51 30.13 5.51 -2.18 5.5 -3.1 31/03/2022
4 3 -1 McGee 83.26 92.15 -8.89 6.12 5.97 7.4 6.5 30/11/2022
5 4 -1 Deconstruct UK 76.09 71.00 5.09 1.41 2.79 1.9 3.9 31/10/2022
6 9 3 Thompsons of Prudhoe 61.60 33.72 27.88 5.97 0.60 9.7 1.8 31/03/2022
7 8 1 DSM Demolition 59.03 33.81 25.22 11.05 9.04 18.7 26.7 31/03/2022
8 6 -2 PP OConnor 55.10 47.20 7.90 1.58 1.63 2.9 3.5 31/10/2022
9 7 -2 Brown and Mason 51.27 41.27 10.00 1.96 1.03 3.8 2.5 30/04/2022
10 10 = Morrisroe Demolition 34.62 32.49 2.13 1.35 1.67 3.9 5.1 31/10/2022
Notes: Keltbray Latest revenue figure is for demolition operations only. John F Hunt Figures include all construction operations. McGee Figures include non-demolition operations. Morrisroe Demolition 2021 figures covered 15-month period.

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