John Laing plc

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John Laing plc
Industry Public–private partnerships
Founded 1848
Headquarters London, UK
Key people
Olivier Brousse, CEO
Owner Henderson Private Equity

John Laing plc is a British developer and operator of privately financed, public sector infrastructure projects such as roads, railways, hospitals and schools through Public-Private Partnership (PPP) and Private Finance Initiative (PFI) arrangements. Prior to being acquired by Henderson Private Equity in December 2006, John Laing plc was listed on the London Stock Exchange and was a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index.


The business can trace its roots back to 1848 when James Laing (born in 1816), along with his wife Ann Graham, and some employees whom they had hired, built a house on a plot of land that they had bought for £30 in Cumberland. The £150 proceeds from the first house financed the building of the next two houses on the same plot of land, one of which was kept by the Laing family to live in. The family and the business later moved near Carlisle.

When James Laing died in 1882, his son, John Laing (born in 1842) took over the running of the company. John began to undertake larger contracts but confined the business to the Carlisle area.

John's son, John William Laing, (born in 1879) was working for the business before he was 20 years old, and so it became John Laing and Son. By 1910, John William Laing was running the business. More employees were recruited and larger projects were undertaken, including factory construction.

In 1920 the firm became a limited company, and two years later moved its headquarters from Carlisle to a 13 acres (5.3 ha) site at Mill Hill in north-west London.

William Kirby Laing and John Maurice Laing, the fifth generation of the founding family, joined the company in 1950.

John Laing & Sons (Holdings) Ltd was first listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1952. The family and its trusts and charities held the majority of the shares. John William Laing became the chairman, and his sons became joint managing directors. By this time, the number of employees was around 10,000, and every site had a quality supervisor. John William Laing retired in 1957.

The Second Severn Crossing built by John Laing

Under William Kirby Laing and James Maurice Laing, the company continued to expand, winning contracts for power stations and diversifying into road construction while continuing to build houses. In 1985, Martin Laing, of the sixth generation of the founding family, became chairman.[1]

Martin Laing determined that the company should begin to diversify. Home construction in the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Spain, and California was now one of the major sources of the company's growth.

As the company celebrated its 150th anniversary in 1998, it faced falling profits caused by cost overruns on the Millennium project and continuing problems within its construction division, related to competition and overcapacity.[2]

In 1999 John Laing plc purchased a controlling interest in the Chiltern Rail franchise[3] and by 2002 had structured itself into two main divisions, namely Homes and Investments. It underwent yet another change when Sir Martin Laing retired in early 2002. Bill Forrester took over as executive chairman. For the first time in its history Laing did not have a member of the founding family at the head of the company.[4]

The business expanded rapidly in the late 1990s, such that for the year ended 31 December 2001 its turnover was in excess of £1 billion. Following significant losses on certain construction contracts (particularly the Cardiff Millennium Stadium) the company cut 800 jobs[5] and in 2001 disposed of its construction division to O'Rourke for £1.[6] It focused instead on its PPP / PFI activities.[7] Laing's property developments divisions were sold to Kier Group,[8] and its house building arm was sold to George Wimpey in 2002.[9] In 2003 its affordable housing division was sold in a management buy-out.[10]

In December 2006 John Laing plc was acquired by the private equity arm of Henderson Group.[11][12]

The Laing Rail division - operators of Chiltern Railways and London Overground (with MTR Corporation), and holders of a stake in the open-access railway operator Wrexham & Shropshire - was put up for sale by in September 2007.[13] The division was purchased by German rail operator Deutsche Bahn in January 2008.[14]

In June 2008 John Laing formed a consortium with Hitachi and Barclays Private Equity called Agility Trains to bid for the contract to design, manufacture, and maintain a fleet of long-distance trains for the Intercity Express Programme.[15] The bid was successful and the contract was awarded to the consortium on the 12 February 2009.[15]

Current operations[edit]

John Laing plc now operates as an infrastructure investor and asset manager, principally for the public sector.[16] They have operations in the UK, North America, Europe and Asia Pacific providing private finance for accommodation, health care, transport, waste management and renewable energy projects.[17]

The company conducts three principal activities:

Primary Investment - Sourcing, bidding for and winning greenfield infrastructure projects. Portfolio includes traditional public-private partnership (PPP) structures for the UK healthcare sector, as well as renewable energy.

Secondary Investment - Holding operational infrastructure investments, mainly from their own primary investments.

Asset Management - Asset Management services to both the primary and secondary investment portfolios and also to projects in which John Laing Infrastructure Fund (JLIF) is a shareholder. This includes: value enhancement; project delivery during the construction phase; technical input; and managed services through Management Services Agreements.[18]

Former operations[edit]

Laing Construction[edit]

John Laing’s former construction division, Laing Construction, undertook a number of landmark projects including:

The M1 motorway completed in 1959,[19] Coventry Cathedral completed in 1962,[20] Clifton Cathedral completed in 1973,[21] Mount Pleasant Airfield completed in 1986,[22] the Sizewell B nuclear power station completed in 1995,[23] the Second Severn Crossing completed in 1996,[24] the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff completed in 1999[2] and Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital completed in 2001.[25]

Laing Rail[edit]

The subsidiary Laing Rail owned and operated Chiltern Railways and was joint operator of London Overground (with MTR Corporation) and Wrexham & Shropshire (with Renaissance Trains). In 2008 Laing Rail was sold to Deutsche Bahn.[26]

Musical reference[edit]

Along with Sir Robert McAlpine and George Wimpey, Laing is mentioned in the opening preamble to the 1960 Dominic Behan satirical Irish ballard McAlpine's Fusiliers.[27]


  1. ^ Birthdays The Times, 18 January 2008
  2. ^ a b Cardiff stadium 'financial disaster'
  3. ^ Green light for Laing rail stake The Independent, 10 March 1999
  4. ^ John Laing names new chairman Evening Standard, 4 December 2001
  5. ^ Laing axes jobs after stadium loss, BBC News, 27 October 1999.
  6. ^ Laing shares halve in value, BBC News, 21 September 2001.
  7. ^ Laing focuses on PFI as losses cut to £18.6m The Scotsman, 18 March 2003
  8. ^ Kier snaps up Laing Property Property Week, 15 April 2002
  9. ^ Wimpey in £297m Laing homes buy Evening Standard, 16 October 2002
  10. ^ Northern Venture backs John Laing MBO Financial News, 28 September 2003
  11. ^ Henderson takeover
  12. ^ Building article
  13. ^ "Chiltern Railways auction attracts strong interest". Reuters. 2007-09-17. Retrieved 2007-09-18. 
  14. ^ Deutsche Bahn Press release - 21 January 2008
  15. ^ a b "New train fleet 'to boost jobs'". BBC News. 12 February 2009. Retrieved 12 February 2009. 
  16. ^ Bloomberg company profile
  17. ^ John Laing Website
  18. ^ John Laing plc fact sheet
  19. ^ Motorway archive
  20. ^ National Gallery of Scotland
  21. ^ Clifton Cathedral Guide
  22. ^ "About the Falklands". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 4 June 2012. 
  23. ^ British Construction Industry Awards
  24. ^ Bridge legislation
  25. ^ CABE
  26. ^ Deutsche Bahn announces acquisition of Laing Rail 21/1/2008
  27. ^ "McAlpines Fusiliers". Free Lyrics. Retrieved 2009-05-16. 

External links[edit]