LONDON -- Carillion (LSE:CLLN), one of several U.K. construction firms struggling against a prolonged weakness in its home market, announced the winning of the £400 million phase one of the redevelopment of the Battersea Power Station.
This is a nice local win for Carillion, which has been trying to shift its business away from the struggling U.K. market and into those with stronger demand, specifically the Middle East and Canada -- the company hopes to be doing £1 billion worth of business in each market by 2015.
Adding the Battersea Power Station job to its list of job wins this year, Carillion has stirred up new and probable orders of £2.6 billion so far in 2013 -- on a pace to surpass last year's £5.2 billion. This is reassuring for management and shareholders as the closing order book for 2012 was down £1 billion at compared to the previous year.
It has been tough going among U.K. construction firms as government tightens its belt and business holds back on investment. Last November Morgan Sindall's (LSE:MGNS) CEO fell prey to market conditions, departing as the company issued a profit warning for the year. And just last month Balfour Beatty (LSE:BBY) issued a profit warning of its own, blaming deteriorating conditions in the U.K. market.
Shareholders are hoping that recent job wins -- Carillion also announced winning its bid to build the new Royal Liverpool Hospital -- mean the company can rise above its peers, but the market doesn't appear to be so sure.
Carillion trades on a P/E under seven and its forecast yield is 6.8% after the company increased its dividend by 2% last year, despite a 6% drop in underlying earnings per share. For comparison, Balfour Beatty is trading at 10 times forecast earnings with just under a 6% yield and Morgan Sindall is on a P/E of nine with a yield just under 5%.
A near-7% yield is tempting, but income seekers should be wary. Carillion's net debt tripled last year -- jumping from £50.7 million to £155.8 million -- as the company's operations barely generated any cash (before restructuring costs). Unless the company sees material improvement in its operations, home and abroad, the current payout could be in jeopardy.
If the contract wins keep coming in, Carillion could be a nice recovery story -- and provide a healthy dividend stream -- but if you're looking for something a little more secure to help build your portfolio, and provide steady income, you might want to consider the five ideas in this exclusive wealth report.
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