Building a solid bottom line for when the downturn ends
14th June 2013
BAM chief executive Theo Cullinane says the Irish construction industry needs to be prepared for the day when we finally leave the recession behind.
He probably wouldn’t admit it, but Theo Cullinane looks close to mastering the art of being in at least two places at once. The Corkman is chief executive of Netherlands construction giant, Royal Dutch BAM’s Irish subsidiary, known here as BAM. He still lives in his native city but spends most of the working week in Kill, Co Kildare, from where he oversees operations not just in Ireland, but also in locations such as Germany and the Middle East.
Formed in 1958 specifically to build Wexford Bridge, and known until its takeover by the Dutch plc in 2003 as Ascon, BAM has been in the top two or three players in the Irish industry for much of its career, and has just as consistently held the number one slot in different sub-sectors, civil engineering, roads, marine construction etc, along the way. “We’d like to be number one,” Cullinane says.
That means growth, which, these days, is a tall order. This month, the Republic’s construction industry began its seventh straight year of decline. Official figures show that it has gone backwards for 72 consecutive months, falling from where it was obviously bloated, past where it should be to a point where most measures suggest that it is now too small.
Cullinane knows the figures all too well. He points out that in 2006, now recognised as the absolute height of the bubble, construction output was €37 billion. Today it is worth €6 billion, less than one sixth of that. He argues that in an economy of the Republic’s size, the number should be between €15 billion and €18 billion.
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