BUILDING: How GVK Adapted To Building Downswing
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INDICATIONS are that the building sector has bottomed and is recovering, albeit slowly. Richard Williams, CEO of Cape Town-based Gordon Verhoef and Krause group of companies warns that “What transpires in Europe over the next few months will give us a better idea of the direction in which we are heading. Our most likely industry scenario is a gradual three year climb back to pre-recession levels of activity. However, this will be the toughest year for the industry.”
“One of the biggest factors that could put the industry back on track and provide sustainability is the releasing of state funded projects. We are optimistic about the government’s plans for infrastructure development and believe that it will have positive spin-offs for the industry as a whole. The big question, of course, is whether they will be able to deliver this in the timescale that they anticipate. Many of our colleagues in the industry are sceptical; however government has shown a new determination to make this happen,” Williams says.
“We have reduced margins, looked at all opportunities to reduce costs, but have refused to enter into the realms of ‘suicidal’ tender prices. Like most companies, we are now starting to pick up more work. It takes substantial cash resources to fund the increase in work and this is where those companies that have been sailing a little too close to the wind will feel the pinch which could result in further closures. GVK has been fortunate in that we have been prudent with preserving cash and are able to fund the additional work that we are securing. This has certainly provided a light at the end of the tunnel,” Williams says.
He says in order for the group to ride out the recession, it explored new markets both in client type and geographical spread. “This is starting to bear fruit, both in terms of taking on work in industries in which we have not previously worked and also opportunities in Africa.” The new avenues that GVK has pursued during the downturn have facilitated a more rapid recovery for the group. For instance, as a result of pursuing work in neighbouring countries, GVK has recently secured work on several projects including a substantial one in Namibia valued at R70 million.
The group also used the downturn to sharpen skills in all aspects of the business and green building in particular. “With green building gaining momentum over the past four years we have sought to gain experience as green contractors”. To this end, one of the group’s companies was involved in a pilot project to introduce green building principles and methodologies in the eco-sensitive Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve.
“It has become clear that the lessons learnt from what is one of the industry’s worst recessions in 50 years, we are going to position us to take full advantage of the growth opportunities once the market turns and take our business to new heights.”
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