In the first six months of 2020 Beard grew its half-year sales by 4.3% to £72.0m (H1 2019: £75.3m). Profit before tax was down by £300,00 to £1.4m (H1 2019: £1.7m).
Operating profit was £680,000 for the first half of 2020, compared to £1.5m for the same period in 2019.
Despite the dip in profits, it could have been a lot worse and for many of Beard’s competitors it probably was. According to the Office for National Statistics, construction output in Great Britain fell by a record 35% in the second quarter of 2020 (April to June) compared with the first quarter.
Beard says that its first quarter sales were up 5.2% on 2019 results, but fell 13.6% year-on-year in the second quarter due to the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic.
As a privately owned business, Beard has no requirement to publish its half-year results and has done so this year – for the first time in its 128-year history – because it reckons it has a story to tell, surviving the first national lockdown with a strong cash balance and zero debt on its books.
Cash generated in the first half of 2020 was £7.9m, taking the company from £29.5m as at 31st December 2019 to £37.4m as at 30th June 2020. This has been driven by strong progress and completion across several projects, a focus on securing retention releases and the adoption of cash protection measures, the company said.
Despite the hard lockdown from March until June, Beard completed 31 projects, including the Swindon Carriage Works and a new training facility for Premiership Rugby club Bristol Bears, delivered on time and on budget in spite of the restrictions placed on the project as a result of Covid-19.
At the height of the lockdown Beard continued to work on more than 90% of its sites .
Alongside the new industry standard Site Operating Procedures, Beard implemented additional measures including lengthening the working day and resequencing stages to allow different workers to be on site at different times, minimising the need for contact.
By the end of the June 2020 the order book stood at £60m, down from £100m a year before, but by the end of October 2020 it was back up to £100m again.
New work includes the University of Oxford’s Rhodes House development worth £24m and two developments for Signature Care Homes across the southeast worth £25m.
Chairman Mark Beard said: “In early July we asked our auditors to conduct an independent review of our financial accounts for the first six months of this year, which they duly did.
“This is the first time in the history of the business that we’ve carried out this exercise. Pleasingly our results show that our balance sheet remains very strong and we have a healthy cash position.
“The situation with Covid-19 is unprecedented and continually evolving. It has never been more difficult to predict the year ahead. However, we are confident that these results demonstrate our financial resilience and the long-term sustainability of the business.
“We’ve also been able to keep momentum by winning some significant contracts such as Rhodes House and the Signature Care Home developments, thanks to the reputation we’ve built up in those sectors.
“So, we can look ahead to 2021 with a good level of confidence as we expect to continue winning new work and making further in-roads into established sectors. But above all we’ll be maintaining our commitment to excellence and our ambition to make a positive impact on the communities in which we live and work.”