BICC weighs up joint bids for private roads

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The Independent Online
BICC will join Bank of America to look into bids for the four privately financed roads announced by the Government yesterday.

Sir Robin Biggam, chairman, would not say how many of the schemes Balfour Beatty, its construction subsidiary, would be aiming for. But as the UK's leading road builder, it is likely to be involved in tendering in the autumn.

He was speaking as an pounds 11m swing from loss to profit at BICC's recovering North American operation contributed most of a 19 per cent improvement in operating profits at the cable and construction group.

Pre-tax profits rose 26 per cent to pounds 63m and earnings per share were 10 per cent better at 9p. Elsewhere in the group, however, profits were flat during the first half to July and the interim dividend was pegged at 6p. The shares closed 4p higher at 416p.

The improving economy and cost cuts helped to turn a pounds 3m loss into an pounds 8m profit at the US cables business. It had made a loss for three years.

Balfour Beatty contributed pounds 16m ( pounds 17m) and Sir Robin said that margins were likely to remain weak for some time.

Sales were reduced by the completion of the Channel Tunnel project and the company's unwillingness to tender for highly competitive contracts in 1993.

At the best-performing division, BICC Cables, profits rose from pounds 36m to pounds 39m.

The UK communications business improved significantly, as did energy cable exports. The depressed Continental European market showed signs of stabilising.

In the Far East, BICC has created a new division to develop the group's cable manufacturing and trading activities in the region.

Following unusually high capital expenditure in Germany and an exceptional payment in Spain, cash outflow during the half amounted to pounds 94m, a reduction of pounds 24m on the same period last year.

Cash flow should improve this year, with up to pounds 100m expected to be raised during the next year from the sale of part of the property portfolio.

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