Picture: SOWETAN
Picture: SOWETAN

Wilson Bayly Holmes-Ovcon (WBHO) says skilled staff are emigrating from SA at a faster pace amid an exceptionally tough period for construction companies, which have been starved of work.

“Changes in the SA political landscape have yet to take effect and are only expected to positively influence the industry in the future,” the contractor said.

SA’s economic woes, and the dire state of the domestic construction industry, means WBHO is now grappling with “a significant increase” in the number of skilled employees emigrating, it said.

“WBHO is committed to working with the government in unlocking projects over the medium-term, and management has reinforced its commitment to the voluntary rebuild programme.”

A number of former industry stalwarts — including Group Five and Basil Read, which are both in business rescue — have failed to weather the storm. Owing in part to a severely constrained public purse, major construction projects have dried up since the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

WBHO’s shares fell on Friday after the contractor said its order book had shrunk in the first four months of 2019.

The group, which has gravitated towards Australia amid the steady decline of SA’s construction sector, said its total order book at the end of April was R47.3bn. At the end of December, it was at R50.1bn.

WBHO’s shares were 2.8% down at R109.98 on Friday afternoon.

The group said that while its order book in Australia has fallen, it “remains strong with growth in student accommodation and commercial refurbishment sectors ... This is in line with the group’s strategy to limit growth in favour of focusing on profit enhancement”.

In the UK, Brexit uncertainties have also “slowed the market”.

hedleyn@businesslive.co.za