Building giant signs Pelham

Construction leviathan Balfour Beatty has turned to Pelham PR, weeks after announcing stellar first-half figures and hiring Duncan Murray as deputy director of comms.

Pelham secured the brief after a competitive pitch that also involved Maitland and FD.

Significantly, Pelham consultant Andy Cornelius used to run an agency with Murray. The two men also worked together at College Hill. Cornelius heads the Balfour Beatty account at Pelham.

The agency will look to communicate a firm on the rise despite global financial constraints.

In particular, Balfour Beatty has seen tremendous growth in the Middle East, which has huge financial reserves largely unaffected by the credit crunch.

The company believes it will escape the downturn in the private construction industry, as many of its projects are government-funded infrastructure programmes.

In early August the firm reported a 25 per cent jump in first-half profits as a result of what it called 'spectacular growth in Dubai'.

The company is building the world's largest shopping centre in Dubai's Burj Tower and reported pre-tax profits of £95m in the six months to the end of June, up from £76m in the same period last year.

Balfour Beatty also lifted its order book by 14 per cent as a focus on big infrastructure projects helped the construction group avoid the slowdown affecting most of Britain's builders.

A further £500m will be added when the company, which is currently preferred bidder, starts work on widening the M25 next year.

'It's a big business, just outside the FTSE 100 and tremendously successful,' said Cornelius, whose own agency Gainsborough Communications had advised Balfour Beatty in the past, before taking the business to College Hill.

Murray joined Balfour Beatty in April (PRWeek, 6 April). His appointment is seen as a succession plan to take over from comms head Tim Sharp, who has been at the construction firm for 20 years.

Balfour Beatty's current buoyancy is far removed from its position in 2005, when its comms team and directors faced intense media scrutiny as the firm admitted to breaching safety standards before the Hatfield train disaster. Having been cleared of the more serious charge of corporate manslaughter by a judge at the Old Bailey, the firm pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety Act. Four people died in October 2000 when their train left the track travelling at 115mph.

This year profits from the group's rail arm fell by £3m to £10m, but major projects such as Crossrail and Thameslink look set to get its rail interests back on track.

BALFOUR BEATTY FACTS AND FIGURES

- Chief executive Ian Tyler

- Director of comms Tim Sharp

- Employees 35,000

- Major past projects

- Heathrow Terminal Five rail, The British Museum and Arsenal Football Club's

- Emirates Stadium

- Previous agencies College Hill, Gainsborugh, Citigate.

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