Kier Group plc is a 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.
It is the fourth-largest UK construction contractor behind Balfour Beatty, Carillion and Laing O'Rourke.
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.
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. By the late 1930s Kier had moved their 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. Their immediate neighbours were Marples Ridgeway (builders of Hammersmith Flyover) and Edmund Nuttall (builders of both Mersey road tunnels).
During the first thirty-five years of its existence 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.
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), monolithic concrete chimneys (sometimes over 400 ft high), complete power station structures, and coastal works such as tanker berths, docks and harbours.
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.
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." And American critic Henry Russell Hitchcock called it, "One of the finest, if not absolutely the finest, middle-class housing projects in the world." In 1970 this reputation gained official recognition when both Highpoint blocks were classified Grade I within the historic buildings listing programme.
While Olaf Kier remained at the helm of the organisation he had firstly projected plans, then active plans, for family succession within the group's top management, but unfortunately these did not achieve fruition. His son by his first marriage was killed in a riding accident in 1945. Then during the 1950s Olaf introduced his nephew, Mogens Kier, into the firm's management structure, but this did not lead to his assuming principal position in the organisation. Olaf died in an accident in 1986, aged 87; and Mogens died in 2003.
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.
Five years later (1991) Hanson plc bought Beazer plc and made an early decision to dispose of the Beazer contracting arm. The contracting business was disposed of the following year via a management buyout, in which Hanson retained ten per-cent of the equity. In 1993 Kier decided to re-enter the housing market with the £30m acquisition of Twigden Homes. This was followed by 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.
A listing on the London Stock Exchange was obtained in 1996.
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.
In 2013, Kier acquired the services firm May Gurney for £221 million.
In June 2015 Kier completed its acquisition of Mouchel, a business which included both an infrastructure services division and a business services division, for £265 million.
The company has four divisions: Kier Construction, Kier Services, Kier Residential and Kier Property These are further split into smaller companies.
Projects involving the company have included Highpoint I completed in 1935, the North Terminal at Gatwick Airport completed in 1988, the Lesotho Highlands Water Project completed in 1998,Hairmyres Hospital completed in 2001, High Speed 1 completed in 2007, the Castlepoint shopping centre in Bournemouth in 2003, the UK Supreme Court in London completed in 2009 and Snowhill Phase 2 in Birmingham completed in 2009.
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. Subsequently, Kier was among eight businesses involved in the 2014 launch of the Construction Workers Compensation Scheme, condemned as a "PR stunt" by the GMB union, and described by the Scottish Affairs Select Committee as "an act of bad faith".