Balfour Beatty wins airport link order

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BALFOUR BEATTY, the BICC subsidiary involved in the Pergau dam project, yesterday beat off competition from rival bidders to win the main contract to build the underground stations and tunnels for the pounds 300m Heathrow Express rail link into central London.

BAA and British Rail, joint venture partners in the project, awarded Balfour Beatty the pounds 60m order in preference to bids from five specially formed consortia involving Amec, Sir Robert McAlpine, Taylor Woodrow, Tarmac, Kier and Trafalgar House.

News of the contract came as BICC announced unchanged operating profits of pounds 135m, reflecting what Sir Robin Biggam, chairman, called 'an exceptionally difficult trading environment'.

Sir Robin said he was very disappointed by the Malaysian government's decision not to offer further contracts to British companies, but he added that a pounds 70m contract at a new airport for Kuala Lumpur would go ahead. Profits from Balfour Beatty rose pounds 3m to pounds 40m.

The express link from Heathrow into Paddington station is scheduled to open in December 1997 and will cut the Heathrow-London journey time to 16 minutes. Services will operate every 15 minutes from two dedicated platforms at Paddington to the two new stations at the airport.

Sir Robin's comments knocked the shares 16p lower to 438p despite the maintenance of a 13.25p final dividend, making a full-year total of 19.25p. For the third year running the dividend was uncovered by earnings per share, which rose from 2.2p to 15.4p.

Pre-tax profits, 65 per cent higher at pounds 104m ( pounds 63m) were flattered by a pounds 39m downward restatement of 1992's result to reflect a decision to stop capitalising interest on property developments.

In another change BICC said it planned to reclassify pounds 177m of capital bonds as preference shares to comply with a new accounting standard designed to clarify the distinction between debt and equity.

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