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The Collapse of Carillion: Lessons for Other Contractors


The Collapse of Carillion: Lessons for Other Contractors

Carillion, one of the largest construction companies in the United Kingdom, was a major player in the UK’s construction industry. With a market value of over £2 billion and employing over 20,000 people, Carillion was considered one of the most important companies in the industry. However, despite its success, Carillion eventually suffered a catastrophic collapse in 2018, with far-reaching consequences for the UK economy. In this article, we will examine the causes of the collapse of Carillion and the lessons that other contractors can learn from it.

The Causes of Carillion’s Collapse

Carillion’s collapse was caused by a number of factors, including poor financial management, over-optimistic bidding, and a failure to adapt to changes in the construction market. The company was heavily invested in the construction of public infrastructure, such as hospitals and schools, but it quickly became clear that the company was bidding for these projects at rates that were significantly lower than its costs. As a result, Carillion was forced to write off large amounts of its work and this, combined with the slowdown in the construction market, created a downward spiral for the company.

Another factor that contributed to Carillion’s collapse was its poor financial management. Despite the company’s growing debt, Carillion continued to pay out dividends to shareholders and make acquisitions. This was seen as a sign of the company’s financial stability, but it was later revealed that the dividends were being funded by new debt, rather than profits. This led to a situation where the company was unable to cover its debt payments, which eventually led to its downfall.

The Final Straw

Carillion’s final straw came in January 2018, when the company issued a profit warning, indicating that it was likely to miss its financial targets. This was followed by a series of revelations about the company’s financial situation, including its growing debt, the fact that it had been taking on new contracts despite its financial difficulties, and the fact that its pension scheme was underfunded. In the end, Carillion was forced to seek a rescue deal, but this was ultimately unsuccessful, and the company was forced to file for liquidation.

The Consequences of Carillion’s Collapse

Carillion’s collapse had far-reaching consequences for the UK economy. The company was a major provider of public services, and its collapse led to the immediate suspension of work on a number of important projects, including schools, hospitals, and roads. The government was forced to step in to provide funding for these projects.


The collapse of Carillion had far-reaching consequences, affecting many stakeholders, including:

  1. Employees: Thousands of Carillion employees were left uncertain about their future, with many losing their jobs.

  2. Pensioners: Carillion's pension scheme had a significant deficit, leaving many pensioners worried about their retirement income.

  3. Subcontractors and suppliers: Carillion owed large sums of money to subcontractors and suppliers, many of whom were small businesses.

  4. Investors: Shareholders saw the value of their investments plummet as a result of the company's collapse.

  5. Customers: Carillion's collapse disrupted the delivery of public services, such as the maintenance of schools and hospitals, causing significant inconvenience for users.

  6. The UK government: The government had to step in to provide support to public services affected by Carillion's collapse, as well as to cover the cost of employee redundancy payments.

The collapse of Carillion had a major impact on the UK construction industry and demonstrated the importance of good governance, effective risk management, and financial stability.



The collapse of Carillion in 2018 was a major event in the UK construction industry. It highlighted several lessons for other contractors, including:

  1. Diversification of services and revenue streams: Overreliance on a single type of work or customer can lead to financial instability.

  2. Strong financial management: Carillion's financial problems were partly due to its high debt levels and poor cash flow.

  3. Transparent accounting: The company was criticized for aggressive accounting practices and a lack of transparency, which made it difficult for stakeholders to assess its financial health.

  4. Good governance: The company's board of directors was accused of ignoring warning signs and not taking necessary action to address financial difficulties.

  5. Effective risk management: Carillion failed to manage its risks effectively, including the risk of major contracts being delayed or not proceeding as planned.

By learning from the lessons of Carillion's collapse, other contractors can take steps to reduce the risk of similar problems occurring and ensure the long-term sustainability of their businesses.




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