Western order book 'strong' as company builds for the future

Western Building Systems' directorsMartin and Declan McCloskey
Gary McDonald Business Editor

TYRONE construction firm Western Building Systems says its forward-looking outlook remains "encouraging" despite it reporting a slight dip in turnover and bottom-line profits in the year to April past.

The off-site construction specialist, established in 1982 and a leading builder of schools and hospitals across Ireland and Britain, also said its order book is "already very strong" and, post year end, so is its trading.

The company, originally set up by Martin McCloskey as Western Roofing but which has since diversified and expanded, saw its turnover decrease from £39.9 million to £37.2m over the trading period.

Gross profit margin increased to 16.7 per cent from 14.6 per cent in 2015 and its operating profit increased to £4,132,056 from £3,778,910.

On a bottom line basis, retained profit dropped slight from £3,083,468 to £2,930,648. Western also has a loss reserve of £10.9m.

The company staff numbers stayed steady at 45, and its pay bill for the year was £1,772,729.

The total remuneration package for its directors (including contributions to pension schemes) fell from £566,241 in 2016 to £428,590 this year.

Western has a diverse portfolio of work and operates in a range of sectors including education, health, residential, private and commercial build, and specialises in offsite modular and panelised construction.

In August its Western Homes division confirmed that it is to build 58 new eco-friendly homes at a site on the outskirts of Dungannon in a £6m investment which will will help meet a pent-up demand for new homes in the area. Prices of the turnkey homes start at £135,000.

In September the Republic's education minister Richard Bruton ordered an audit of a number of school building projects overseen by Western Building Systems during the past 14 years after fire safety concerns were discovered in five primary schools.

He said government officials believe the works were done to the highest standards, even though inspectors reported some materials used in five school projects did not meet the required 60-minute fire retardation period needed for a full evacuation.

"This isn't based on a concern that we have - we believe that they have been built to the highest standard - but to make assurance doubly sure," he said.

Mr Bruton told the Oireachtas Education Committee that Western could still apply for other state tendered building projects while the full audit takes place.

Western said it was confident all of the buildings conformed with the required standards and specifications, with a company spokesman saying: "We have a distinguished record of delivering high quality buildings for more than 35 years throughout the UK and Ireland. We take matters of health and safety very seriously indeed.

"We believe all of school buildings in question, which were delivered since 2004 , met all relevant fire safety and building regulations that prevailed at the time of handover."

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