Kier Group

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Kier Group plc
Public limited company
Traded asLSEKIE
IndustryConstruction, Civil engineering, Support services, Property management
HeadquartersTempsford Hall, Sandy, Bedfordshire
Key people
Phil White, Chairman
Haydn Mursell, CEO
Revenue£4,493.3 million (2018)[1]
£160.0 million (2018)[1]
£88.5 million (2018)[1]
Number of employees
20,064 (2018)[1]

Kier Group plc is a UK construction, services and property group active in building and civil engineering, support services, public and private housebuilding, land development and the Private Finance Initiative (PFI). It is a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index.

By turnover, Kier was ranked in September 2018 as the second biggest UK construction contractor, behind Balfour Beatty.[2]



The company was founded by Jorgen Lotz and Olaf Kier, Danish engineers, under the name Lotz & Kier in 1928, and it was based in Stoke-on-Trent.[3]

A few years later Lotz withdrew from the company, but Olaf Kier retained a semblance of his identity by including Lotz's initials in the organisation's new name, J.L. Kier & Co Ltd, which remained the company's principal title for over four decades.[4]

Pre-World War II[edit]

By the late 1930s Kier had moved its head office to Belgravia in Westminster, and thereby became neighbours to many of Britain's leading construction engineering consultants and contractors, who had formed a substantial coterie in Westminster for professionals and businessmen engaged in civil engineering. Immediate neighbours included Marples Ridgeway (builders of Hammersmith Flyover) and Edmund Nuttall (builders of both Mersey road tunnels).[5]

Concrete engineering[edit]

During its first 35 years, Kier became identified with certain civil engineering specialisms, such as contiguous cylindrical reinforced concrete grain silos and cement silos, using continuously sliding formwork; commencing with those at Barking in 1929, followed by grain silos at Northampton, Peterborough, Melksham, Gloucester and Witham; and cement silos at Norwich, Cambridge, Trinidad, and in India.[6]

Such specialist work was part of a pattern that quickly developed in the company's operations during that period, namely the undertaking of innovative, state-of-the-art civil engineering techniques at the forefront of modern technology. Other elements within this pattern were hyperbolic natural draft cooling towers (mostly around 300 ft high),[7] monolithic concrete chimneys (sometimes over 400 ft high),[8] complete power station structures,[9] and coastal works such as tanker berths, docks and harbours.[10]

Corner detail of Highpoint I, showing balcony profiles.

In the same period, only this time in the building sector, Kier were in the vanguard of new reinforced concrete systems for use as framework for tall buildings. Their most famous contribution in this field was an eight-storey avant-garde development of apartment blocks named Highpoint, located in Highgate Village, north London. They were responsible for the reinforced concrete and general building.[11]

When this project was completed in 1935 it became widely renowned as the finest example of this form of construction for residential purposes. When Le Corbusier himself visited Highpoint in 1935 he said, "This beautiful building .... at Highgate is an achievement of the first rank."[12] And American critic Henry Russell Hitchcock called it, "One of the finest, if not absolutely the finest, middle-class housing projects in the world"[12] (in 1970 both Highpoint blocks were classified Grade I listed buildings).[13]

Kier dynasty[edit]

Olaf Kier sought to retain family leaders at the head of the organisation. However, his son by his first marriage was killed in a riding accident in 1945. Then, during the 1950s, Olaf's nephew, Mogens Kier, joined the firm's management structure, but did not progress to a leading position in the company. Olaf died in an accident in 1986, aged 87; and Mogens died in 2003.[14]

Post-World War II[edit]

J.L. Kier & Co Ltd remained a private company until 1963 when it obtained a listing on the London Stock Exchange and became a public company. Its offer for shares was many times oversubscribed. The Kier family retained a significant majority of the holding. In 1973 Kier merged with W. & C. French to form French Kier but within the French division there were heavy losses on fixed-price motorway contracts and land development. A long-serving Kier engineer, John Mott, was appointed chief executive in order to revive the group's fortunes. Following an abortive bid for Abbey in 1985, French Kier itself was the subject of a hotly contested bid by Beazer, which eventually succeeded in January 1986.[15]

Five years later (1991) Hanson plc bought Beazer plc[16] and made an early decision to dispose of the contracting arm, now known simply as Kier. This was the subject of a management buyout in July 1992,[17] with Hanson retaining a 10 per cent stake.[18]

In 1993 Kier decided to re-enter the housing market with the £30m acquisition of Twigden Homes. This was followed by acquisitions of the southern division of Miller Homes in 1996, Bellwinch in 1998, and Allison Homes in 2001. By 2004, Kier housing sales were over 1,000 units a year.[15] Kier was listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1996.[19]

21st century[edit]

In 2009, Mivan Kier, Kier's Romanian joint venture with the Northern Irish group Mivan, which invested in real estate projects in Bucharest, requested bankruptcy protection due to debts of €20 million.[20][21]

In 2013, Kier acquired the services firm May Gurney for £221 million,[22] becoming the then fourth largest contracting firm in the UK (behind Balfour Beatty, Carillion and Laing O'Rourke).[23] In June 2015 Kier completed the acquisition of Mouchel, a business which included infrastructure services and business services divisions, for £265 million;[24] Mouchel Infrastructure Services was rebranded as Mouchel Consulting, and sold to WSP Global in October 2016. In July 2017 Kier acquired McNicholas Construction, another UK infrastructure services provider.[25]

After the collapse into liquidation of rival contracting and services provider Carillion in January 2018, Kier took on some of Carillion's staff and contracts: 150 Carillion workers employed on smart motorway joint ventures with Kier became Kier employees; 51 Carillion employees working on seven HS2 civil engineering packages awarded to the CEK joint venture were offered the opportunity to join Kier/Eiffage.[26][27][28] However, because Kier shared some characteristics that contributed to Carillion's collapse - problem contracts, rising debts, and use of reverse factoring supply chain finance - City hedge funds began to 'short' Kier's shares, with 10.9% of Kier's shares shorted by 30 August 2018,[29] rising to 18% ahead of a results announcement on 20 September 2018,[30] though Kier's position was not regarded as risky as Carillion's.[31] The 2018 results were in line with City expectations - showing a pre-tax profit of £137m from stable revenue of £4.5 billion - with Kier outlining clear debt reduction plans, and shares rose 5% in early trading.[32][33] In November 2018, Kier announced the £24m sale of its Australian road assets and management services business KHSA to joint venture partner Downer, and said sale proceeds would help reduce net debt.[34]


The company has four divisions: Kier Construction, Kier Services, Kier Residential and Kier Property. These are further split into smaller companies.[35]

Major projects[edit]

Projects involving the company have included Highpoint I completed in 1935,[36] the North Terminal at Gatwick Airport completed in 1988,[37] the Lesotho Highlands Water Project completed in 1998,[38] Hairmyres Hospital completed in 2001,[39] High Speed 1 completed in 2007,[40] the Castlepoint shopping centre in Bournemouth in 2003,[41] the UK Supreme Court in London completed in 2009[42] and Snowhill Phase 2 in Birmingham completed in 2009.[43]

Kier Group is also involved in HS2 lots C2 and C3, working as part of joint venture, with main construction work to start in 2018/9.[44]


Kier was revealed as a subscriber to the UK's Consulting Association, exposed in 2009 for operating an illegal construction industry blacklist, and was among 14 issued with enforcement notices by the UK Information Commissioner's Office.[45] Subsequently, Kier was among eight businesses involved in the 2014 launch of the Construction Workers Compensation Scheme,[46] condemned as a "PR stunt" by the GMB union, and described by the Scottish Affairs Select Committee as "an act of bad faith".[47] In December 2017, Unite announced it had issued high court proceedings against four former chairmen of the Consulting Association, included Danny O'Sullivan of Kier, alleging breach of privacy, defamation and Data Protection Act offences.[48] Unite also said it was taking action against 12 major contractors including Kier.[49]

Following a devastating fire in the Glasgow School of Art's Mackintosh Building on 15 June 2018, the school terminated its £25 million restoration contract with Kier on 29 June 2018.[50]

In October 2018, Kier was named as a 'poor payer' at a Parliamentary inqury into small businesses, failing to pay 48% of invoices due within their agreed terms, leading some suppliers to refuse to work for the company.[51]


  1. ^ a b c d "Annual Report 2018" (PDF). Kier Group. Retrieved 12 October 2018.
  2. ^ Menary, Steve (22 September 2018). "TCI Top 100 Construction Companies 2018". The Construction Index. Retrieved 24 September 2018.
  3. ^ Ove Arup, Masterbuilder of the 20th Century by Peter Jones, Page 54. Retrieved 2 December 2008.
  4. ^ "J. L. Kier and Co". Grace's Guide. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  5. ^ "Obituary: Sir Nicholas Nuttall". Liverpool Daily Post. 9 August 2007. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  6. ^ pps 28 & 29, Kier Corporate Blue Book, 1955 Edtn
  7. ^ pps 17-19, Kier Corporate Blue Book, 1955 Edtn
  8. ^ p 16, Kier Corporate Blue Book, 1955 Edtn
  9. ^ pps 11-14, Kier Corporate Blue Book, 1955 Edtn
  10. ^ pps 3-7, Kier Corporate Blue Book, 1955 Edtn
  11. ^ pps 44 & 45, Kier Corporate Blue Book, 1955 Edtn
  12. ^ a b "Highpoint One". OpenLearn. Retrieved 22 March 2015.
  13. ^ "Buildings of Historic or Architectural Interest". Retrieved 22 March 2015.
  14. ^ Kierlink Archived 22 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  15. ^ a b Wellings, Fred: Dictionary of British Housebuilders (2006) Troubador. ISBN 978-0-9552965-0-5
  16. ^ Jonathan P. Hicks (17 September 1991). "COMPANY NEWS; Hanson to Buy Beazer In $609 Million Deal". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 August 2008.
  17. ^ Connon, Heather (7 July 1992). "Hanson sells contract firms". Independent. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  18. ^ "Buy out, yes. Sell out, no". Contract Journal. 7 April 1994. Retrieved 18 August 2008.[permanent dead link]
  19. ^ Kier Group London Stock Exchange
  20. ^ "Mivan Kier JV declares insolvency", Bucharest Business Review, 9 August 2009
  21. ^ "Vând avans de locuinţă", Evenimentul Zilei, 8 September 2009
  22. ^ Kier completes £221m deal for May Gurney The Courier
  23. ^ May Gurney joins Kier Group Construction Index, 8 July 2013
  24. ^ Paton, Elizabeth (28 April 2015). "Kier confirms Mouchel takeover". Financial Times. ISSN 0307-1766. Retrieved 25 November 2015.
  25. ^ "Kier buys £180m-turnover McNicholas". Construction News. 13 July 2017. Retrieved 13 March 2018.
  26. ^ "Kier takes on Carillion JV staff". The Construction Index. 22 January 2018. Retrieved 22 January 2018.
  27. ^ Morby, Aaron (22 January 2018). "Kier saves 200 Carillion staff jobs to complete JVs". Construction Enquirer. Retrieved 22 January 2018.
  28. ^ Rhiannon Curry (22 January 2018). "Kier takes on Carillion staff for HS2 and motorways work". Retrieved 7 July 2018.
  29. ^ GCR staff (5 September 2018). "Carillion short sellers now targeting Kier". Global Construction Review. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  30. ^ Sheldon, Edward (18 September 2018). "Remember Carillion's collapse? Could this Neil Woodford-owned stock be next?". Motley Fool. Retrieved 19 September 2018.
  31. ^ "Kier vs. Carillion - what can we learn?". Tussell. Retrieved 19 September 2018.
  32. ^ Morby, Aaron (20 September 2018). "Kier targets £50m disposals to cut £375m debt". Construction Enquirer. Retrieved 20 September 2018.
  33. ^ Vincent, Matthew (20 September 2018). "Opening Quote: Kier determined not to be the next Carillion". Financial Times. Retrieved 20 September 2018.
  34. ^ Morby, Aaron (15 November 2018). "Kier raises £24m from Australian road business sell-off". Construction Enquirer. Retrieved 15 November 2018.
  35. ^ "Organisational Structure". Kier Group plc. Archived from the original on 30 December 2012. Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  36. ^ "Highpoint I". Engineering Timelines. Archived from the original on 28 September 2011.
  37. ^ "Gatwick Airport North Terminal Development" (PDF). Entech. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 October 2011.
  38. ^ Nicholas Hildyard (10 July 2002). "The Lesotho Highland Water Development Project - What Went Wrong? - The Companies". The Corner House. Retrieved 18 August 2008.
  39. ^ "PFI Data Sheet - Hairmyres Hospital" (PDF). Government of Scotland. Retrieved 18 August 2008.
  40. ^ "CTRL Contract 103". World Tunnelling. 1 May 2001.
  41. ^ "Castelpoint: Who will pay?". Daily Echo. 25 August 2006. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
  42. ^ "Kier given go-ahead on Supreme Court". Contract Journal. 4 April 2007.[permanent dead link]
  43. ^ "Snowhill builder holding steady despite the crunch". Birmingham Post. 16 May 2008. Retrieved 18 August 2008.
  44. ^ "HS2 contracts worth £6.6bn awarded by UK government". the Guardian. 17 July 2017. Retrieved 13 October 2017.
  45. ^ "Construction blacklist". ICO. ICO. Retrieved 7 September 2015.
  46. ^ "Construction blacklist compensation scheme opens". BBC News: Business. BBC. 4 July 2014. Retrieved 7 September 2015.
  47. ^ "Scottish Affairs - Seventh Report Blacklisting in Employment: Final Report". Scottish Affairs Select Committee. Retrieved 7 September 2015.
  48. ^ "Union sues blacklist ringleaders". The Construction Index. 4 December 2017. Retrieved 4 December 2017.
  49. ^ Prior, Grant (4 December 2017). "Unite launches new round of blacklisting legal action". Construction Enquirer. Retrieved 4 December 2017.
  50. ^ Marc Horne (2017-12-31). "Glasgow fires as devastating as IRA bomb in Manchester, says MP | Scotland". The Times. Retrieved 2018-07-02.
  51. ^ Marshall, Jordan (9 October 2018). "Kier outed as 'poor payer' at parliamentary inqury into small businesses". Building. Retrieved 9 October 2018.

External links[edit]