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Construction group Balfour Beatty to hand back £19m in furlough funds


Balfour Beatty is on Wednesday expected to become the latest blue-chip British company to hand back millions of pounds of taxpayers’ cash by announcing that it will repay funds used to furlough employees.

Sky News has learnt that the construction group is likely to announce alongside its annual results that it has decided to repay almost £20m of state support.

A leading shareholder in Balfour Beatty, which placed approximately 3,000 employees on furlough during the pandemic’s early stages, said they would welcome the decision.

An employee works on a bicycle in a Halfords store, after the government announced a new plan on walking and cycling projects, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Luton, Britain July 28, 2020
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Halfords said last week that it would hand back furlough money

The move will come days after a warning from a major investor body that it would recommend voting against boards which paid bonuses to executives for last year if they had taken government money during the pandemic.

Balfour Beatty cancelled its final dividend a year ago and did not declare an interim payout last summer, while its senior management also, like those at many other companies, took temporary pay cuts.

A growing number of companies have opted to return money handed out by the government under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme after concluding that the pandemic’s impact on their finances had not been as severe as feared.

Halfords, the bicycles retailer, announced last week that it would repay nearly £11m in furlough funds.

A source close to Balfour Beatty, which is a major contractor on the HS2 rail link project, said a decision about returning the furlough cash had always been intended to be taken at the end of its financial year.

Investor will scrutinise its results statement for further signs of a rebound in construction activity in the group’s key international markets.

Balfour Beatty declined to comment on Tuesday.



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