Overseas earnings continue their upwards trajectory, with Fosters still leading the way
AJ100 practices saw a 19 per cent rise in fees from overseas projects to their UK offices up to £334.4 million in 2019. This followed on from a 10 per cent rise the previous year.
But although 61 of the 104 AJ100 practices’ UK offices contributed to these overseas earnings, the statistics are once again dominated by Foster + Partners and Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA). Together, these two practices account for two-thirds of the total of overseas earnings to UK offices, with Fosters responsible for just over half the total and ZHA a further 14 per cent. WATG and PLP both reported that their UK offices earned more than £9 million from overseas projects, while Allies and Morrison earned over £8 million. These five practices together accounted for three-quarters of overseas earnings to UK offices.
While the majority of the UK offices of AJ100 practices earn all, or the vast majority, of their income from UK projects, WATG (100 per cent); ZHA (99 per cent) and Fosters (88 per cent) are exceptions, earning all or nearly all of their income to UK offices from overseas projects.
PLP also earned more than half its income from overseas projects, while Leonard Design, Chapman Taylor and HOK all earned more than a third of their UK office income from overseas projects.
With an increase of £38.3 million, Foster + Partners saw the biggest rise in overseas fees paid to UK offices compared with last year.
This hefty increase compares with rises of £6.8 million at Allies and Morrison, £3.9 million at PLP and £3.7 million at Broadway Malyan. Overseas earnings to UK offices fell most at ZHA (-£7.2 million), followed by tp bennett (-£2.3 million).
In relative terms, six practices reported that their overseas income had more than doubled in 2019 compared with the previous year. These were Studio Egret West and Allies and Morrison, both up fivefold, Broadway Malyan, up four times, Assael, up over three times, and Buckley Gray Yeoman, up two and a half times.
The largest relative falls in overseas income were experienced by KSS Design Group, The Fairhursts Design Group and Dexter Moren Associates.
Earnings were reported to overseas offices by 41 of this year’s AJ100 firms, a similar number to the previous year. In total these offices earned £1.97 billion, up from £1.85 billion, although this does not include data from Perkins&Will this year.
As usual, this total is dominated by a few firms: Jacobs alone accounts for 45 per cent, while, combined with HOK, IBI Group and Populous, these five practices account for nearly four-fifths of the total.
Taking into account both overseas earnings paid to UK offices and those paid to overseas offices, 18 of the 104 AJ 100 practices earn at least half of their income from outside the UK.
However, the vast majority of AJ100 practices are focused on the UK, rather than overseas. Thirty-three are entirely dependent on the UK market, with another 30 earning at least 90 per cent of their income in the UK.
Of those reporting overseas fee income to their UK or overseas offices, nearly 90 per cent were active in the EU, with 80 per cent active in the western EU excluding the UK and 45 per cent active in the eastern EU. The proportion active in the EU was roughly double that in the next most popular markets of North America (46 per cent), the UAE (45 per cent) and China and Hong Kong (45 per cent).
Beyond these, activity ranged from almost 40 per cent of firms with work in other Asian countries and Saudi Arabia, to 8 per cent which were active in South Africa, and one practice in Iraq.
Looking ahead, Vince Nacey of building industry analysts The Fees Bureau, expects large practices with an international reputation to respond to Covid-19 by seeking out the overseas markets that have been less affected by the impact of the pandemic.
Bruce Tether is professor of management at the Alliance Manchester Business School at the University of Manchester and Research Director of the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre.
AJ100 2020: Fosters and Zaha Hadid Architects dominate overseas work