Growing M&E specialist posts second successive loss

Project delays caused mechanical and electrical (M&E) specialist Cityside Electrical to underperform last year, its directors have said.

However, the firm ended its latest financial year with a record order book and expanding workforce.

The London-based contractor – one of the largest M&E specialists in the UK – saw its revenue grow by 5 per cent to £170.4m in the year to 30 September 2023.

But it made a pre-tax loss of £1.3m, albeit narrower than the £1.8m deficit in its prior year. The period was the second successive year that Cityside registered a loss from increased revenue.

However, the firm’s margin improved from -1.1 per cent to -0.8 per cent.

Company directors had anticipated turnover of more than £200m but delays shifted several projects into the order book for 2024, they said in the financial accounts.

Director Duncan McArthur said in his strategic report accompanying the accounts that the firm would “continue to work with our clients to mitigate any delays through working flexibly and collaboratively”.

He added that the firm had invested in “delivery and back-office staff to support the anticipated growth for 2024 and 2025”.

The company operates in the data centre, life sciences, commercial office, hotel and leisure sectors, through its main trading company Phoenix ME.

Clients include main contractors and end users such as AstraZeneca, CyrusOne and Equinix.

McArthur said the firm started its 2023/24 financial year with a record order book of £385m, which would help to drive turnover beyond £300m. This included securing “larger projects than ever before”, with two unspecified live projects each worth about £70m.

It was also able to pick up some jobs from main contractors that were in limbo after last year’s collapse of rival M&E firm Michael J Lonsdale, he added.

Headcount increased with a “significant investment in people in 2023 and this has continued in 2024”, said McArthur, helped partly by recruiting 40 ex-Lonsdale employees.

Cityside employed a monthly average of 388 staff, up by 60 on its 2021/22 figure.

McArthur added: “A recruitment drive was undertaken and the company will end 2024 with over 500 employees.”

Cash at hand decreased to £13m. Company directors attributed the previous year’s figure of £24m partly to upfront payments received from clients on data centre projects.

The firm is free of bank loan debt and paid an interim dividend of £480,000 last year.

Cityside was ranked as the 9th biggest M&E firm in the CN100 Specialists Index last year with a turnover of £161.8m.

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