The headline figure from this year's D&Ri100 listing would suggest that the demolition sector has seen a solid recovery from the nadir of the downturn, with the total revenues generated by the 100 companies in this year's report falling just short of the record total for 2007 (US$4,781.5 million) by just US$101.1 million, at US$4,680.4 million. So a good time for all then?

No, such appearances are deceptive. When analysed, the data paints a very different regional picture. The 30 North American companies on the list contribute US$1,938.1 million to the combined total, while the 62 European contractors featuring added US$2,376 million in earnings. Taking a simple average, that is US64.6 million per North American company against US$38.4 for their European counterparts. And a number of the leading North American contractors indicate substantial growth in earnings (in one instance almost four-fold), whereas the leading European contractors almost without exception report a further fall in earnings during the last year. Overall, the European share of the pie fell by a further 10% against the corresponding number for 2010, so the well-documented economic challenges facing this region are obviously still being experienced by European contractors. With massive reductions in government spending almost universal across Europe and the near total collapse of the residential construction industries in many of the countries in the region, times have certainly been tough. The figures themselves almost indicate a double dip recession has occurred in the region. The European industry almost flat-lined during 2008 and 2009, with a slight recovery indicated in 2010 but in 2011 earnings fell back to the 2008 level.

For the first time in several years, the Top 5 is a purely North American affair (although the 11-20 slots are all occupied by contractors from outside this region), with McMahon Services from Australia leading the chasing pack from the first time.

The North American industry clearly hit its downturn during 2009, with the D&Ri 100 total revenues for that region falling more than 20%. It then bumped along the bottom over the course of 2010, but anecdotal evidence has suggested in recent months that a recovery is underway, albeit a slow one. The numbers certainly seem to bear this out, with the North American share of the 2012 total rising by almost 30% on last year's corresponding number. Indeed, this increase has more than compensated for the relatively poor performance of the European region.

Despite the above, of note is the fact that almost twice as many contractors report revenues in excess of US$100 million in 2011 against the corresponding list last year, with 11 companies reporting results of this magnitude or greater against the six of last year against the six last year.

At this point, I add the usual caveat concerning the data. Where companies have not supplied data themselves, independent financial reporting services are used to obtain the figures - we never include an estimate of earnings for companies, no matter how well informed. This has obvious pitfalls, however, as evidenced by the return of Penhall to the top 10 spot - last year, the only number we could obtain resulted in this company falling to 98 on the list despite its obvious scale of operation. Another is that it is often impossible to separate out non-demolition related earnings from the totals we gather, something that should be borne in mind when looking at the data.

There are also a few mid-sized contractors missing from this year's list because we have been unable to obtain even basic figures for them, and they have declined to share their financial data with us (a common issue with privately owned companies). Thus the absence of Robinette, Nagaisangyou, CA de Groot and Demosten, to name just four, should not necessarily be taken to mean that their performance has been so affected by economic conditions as to result in them falling below the D&Ri100 threshold, which this year stands at US$10.8 million (the corresponding number last year was US$10.4 million).

The star performers in 2011 in North America, according to this year's D&R1100, are Canadian outfit Quantum Murray who have jumped from 19th last year to second place with a 361% increase in reported revenue and NASDI with a 262% increase.

In Europe, star performers are a rarer commodity, given the economic conditions pertaining to this region of the world, but of note are the performances of Lee Group (+198%) and Erith (+133%).

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