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UPDATE 1-Balfour Beatty lifts buyback, reinstates dividend as recovery gathers pace

(Adds buyback, details on result, background)

March 10 (Reuters) - Britain’s Balfour Beatty raised the size of its share buyback programme by three-fold on Wednesday and reinstated its dividend as the construction sector recovers from pandemic-induced disruptions.

The London-based company said it had increased its share buyback programme in 2021 to 150 million pounds ($208.08 million) from 50 million pounds and recommended a final dividend of 1.5 pence per share for last year.

Britain’s construction industry rebounded in February, helped by a return to growth in the commercial sector as businesses gave the green light to projects suspended earlier in the COVID-19 crisis.

The disruptions, however, drove an 82% plunge in the company’s underlying pre-tax profit for the year ended Dec. 31, 2020, to 36 million pounds.

The FTSE mid-cap firm’s year-end order book jumped 15% to a record 16.4 billion pounds, thanks to the British government’s approval for work to start on the new high-speed rail line and other project wins.

The company, one of the contractors on the High Speed 2 rail line connecting London to northern England, said it had fully repaid the UK taxes it had deferred in 2020.

Balfour Beatty also said it would return the 19 million pounds claimed under the government’s furlough scheme, making it the first major construction firm to do so.

$1 = 0.7209 pounds Reporting by Aby Jose Koilparambil in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Aditya Soni

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