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Interview: Gaining strength

FK Lowry Piling has emerged stronger than ever after its parent company went into administration earlier this year.

niall mc gill

niall mc gill

FK Lowry director Niall McGill took up the helm at FK Lowry three years ago after many years working for Lagan.He is a civil engineer by training but was still fairly new to geotechnics when he moved to FK Lowry.“Geotechnics is a tough market with smaller margins than you’d expect considering it is such a specialist sector,” he says. “It is very competitive. Such small differences can separate contractors.”

Following the collapse of Carillion earlier this year the construction industry has become warier than ever of businesses going under but for some it creates new opportunities. When FK Lowry Piling and Dew Piling’s parent company Lagan Construction Group went into administration in March this year it may have seemed like news of the worst kind but the reality has been much more positive.

FK Lowry director Niall McGill describes the group entering administration as a “blip at the time” and is confident that the changes it brought have strengthened the business. McGill says that the piling business, which has just undergone a refresh, is in a good position and is now focusing on expansion.

Speaking about the Lagan Construction Group’s financial issues, he says: “We continued to trade in but as our parent company was in administration we were caught up in it but continued to trade normally. There was obviously some nervousness among clients but it didn’t affect our operations.”

Despite the failure of the parent company, FK Lowry is in good shape, according to McGill. For the full financial year to March 2018, FK Lowry Piling recorded a turnover of £14.9M, up significantly from the £10.5M reported the previous year. McGill describes this year’s result as a record for the business and all based on organic growth.

“The rebranding is more than just drawing a line under the administration issue, we’re looking at new markets and new techniques,” he says.

“We are on a business development drive and will be undertaking a number of seminars to promote our capabilities to the market in the coming months. The first is planned for Dublin as we are re-entering the Republic of Ireland market again as it is starting to grow again.

“We are the only piling contractor to offer the full range of techniques in Northern Ireland and feel we have a lot to offer nationally too.

“We have had a strategy of growing our large diameter piling capabilities to compete on more major projects,” adds McGill who points to recent project completions on Tideway as examples of this move into larger contracts.

Energy from Waste also forms a large part of FK Lowry’s business and McGill says a lot of the company’s work comes from early contractor involvement.

fk lowry sr75

fk lowry sr75

The company has undergone a rebranding process, which McGill says takes the business back to its heritage

“Over half of our work is repeat business too,” says McGill.

The company undertakes a wide range of projects from smaller schemes right up to those valued at £5M.

The largest project the business has undertaken so far was for an energy from waste plant for Covanta Energy in Dublin which called for €5M of CFA piling. The company is also currently working on a £4M piling contract for another energy from waste scheme with Clugston in Avonmouth.

With piling on a firm financial footing, the restructure that followed the administration has benefited the piling business by bringing it together with sheet piling specialist Dew Piling and FKL Plant under the banner of the FK Lowry Holdings.

McGill’s focus on growth is not just on pure ground engineering but he is also looking to expand capabilities to offer follow on trades. “We are working on a scheme in Glasgow where we are looking at the wider project with basement excavation and capping beam construction,” he says.

“We are creating a one stop shop for clients.”

McGill says that FK Lowry is always looking at projects where it can work in partnership with Dew but this will now also extend to the plant divisions too.

The addition of the plant division means that cranes, earthmoving equipment and concrete and asphalt plants now fall within the same group as the piling businesses.

“We are looking at creating synergies between the three divisions,” says McGill.

While McGill is optimistic about the potential for FK Lowry’s new focus, he remains concerned about the impact of Brexit on the foundation sector and the impact this is having on the pipeline of work.

 

 

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