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Challenges loom for Ward & Burke after strong year

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Uncertainty: Ward & Burke has worked on projects like the Anchorsholme Park storm water pumping station in the UK

Uncertainty: Ward & Burke has worked on projects like the Anchorsholme Park storm water pumping station in the UK

Uncertainty: Ward & Burke has worked on projects like the Anchorsholme Park storm water pumping station in the UK

A SURGE in the North American business of Co Galway engineering group Ward & Burke contributed to pre-tax profits almost doubling last year to €18m.

But company director Padraig Burke has warned that the group is now facing an unprecedented challenge.

"The scale of the negative impacts on turnover, output and costs across all jurisdictions is impossible to predict," he told the Irish Independent.

New accounts lodged by the Ward & Burke Group show that the business posted a 152pc increase in pre-tax profits as revenues surged 19pc to €272m in the 12 months to the end of last December.

The Kilcolgan-headquartered group's best-performing sector was the US and Canada, where revenues increased by €41m, or 46pc, to €130m.

The group's revenue here rose 25pc to almost €88m, while the UK turnover fell 22pc to €52m.

The number of people employed increased to 687 from 601.

Directors' pay rose to €2.7m from €2.1m.

The group's pre-tax profits were boosted last year by a €1.4m profit on the sale of assets. The profit last year also takes account of non-cash depreciation of €12.6m.

At the end of last December, the group had a very strong balance sheet of shareholder funds totalling €68m, which included cash of €14.2m.

Financial director with the group, David Kirrane, said: "Unfortunately, 2020 is likely to present a significant challenge in the context of Covid-19 impacts." 

He added: "We intend to support our direct labour force and their families during this time of crisis."

"Countries will be affected in different measure depending on their individual responses to the Covid challenge," he pointed out.

"Tendering opportunities may reduce as the focus quite rightly shifts nationally to managing the crisis."

The finance boss said that in response to the Covid-19 crisis, the company has sub-divided its workforce into approximately 100 mutually exclusive groups, working as independently as possible, in an effort to control the spread of the virus.

"The group's strategy of substantial investment in high-value specialist plant and equipment in this and prior years, coupled with extensive training and upskilling of all grades of employees, has given us a real competitive advantage in all markets," said Mr Kirrane.

He said that these factors as well as others helped achieve "a very healthy 12pc" in earnings last year.

Irish Independent