John Laing plc

British developer and operator of infrastructure projects

John Laing plc is a British developer and operator of privately financed, public sector infrastructure projects such as roads, railways, hospitals and schools. Before being bought by Henderson Private Equity in December 2006, John Laing plc was listed on the London Stock Exchange and was part of the FTSE 250 Index.

John Laing plc
Company typePublic
IndustryPublic-Private Partnerships
HeadquartersLondon, UK
Key people
Adrian Ewer, CEO



The business started in 1848. James Laing (born in 1816), along with his wife Ann Graham, and some employees whom they had hired, built a house on a plot of land that they had bought for £30 in Cumberland. The £150 proceeds from the first house financed the building of the next two houses on the same plot of land. One of these houses was kept by the Laing Family to live in. The family and the business later moved near Carlisle.

When James Laing died in 1882, his son, John Laing (born in 1842) took over the running of the company. John began to take larger contracts but kept the business in the Carlisle area.

John's son, John William Laing, (born in 1879) was working for the business before he was 20 years old, and so it became John Laing and Son. By 1910, John William Laing was running the business. More employees were recruited and larger projects were undertaken, including factory construction.

In 1920 the firm became a limited company, and two years later moved its headquarters from Carlisle to a thirteen acre (5 ha) site at Mill Hill in north-west London.

William Kirby Laing and John Maurice Laing, the fifth generation of the founding family, joined the company in 1950.

John Laing & Sons (Holdings) Ltd was first listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1952. The family and its trusts and charities held the majority of the shares. John William Laing became the chairman, and his sons became joint managing directors. By this time, the number of employees was around 10,000, and every site had a quality supervisor. John William Laing retired in 1957.

The Second Severn Crossing built by John Laing

Under William Kirby Laing and James Maurice Laing, the company continued to expand. They gained contracts for power stations. They also worked on road construction while continuing to build houses. In 1985, Martin Laing, of the sixth generation of the founding family, became chairman.[1]

Martin Laing determined that the company should begin to diversify. Home construction in the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Spain, and California was now one of the major sources of the company's growth.

As the company celebrated its 150th anniversary in 1998, it faced falling profits caused by cost overruns on the Millennium project and continuing problems within its construction division, related to competition and overcapacity.[2]

In 1999 John Laing plc purchased a controlling interest in the Chiltern Rail franchise[3] and by 2002 had structured itself into two main divisions, namely Homes and Investments. It underwent yet another change when Sir Martin Laing retired in early 2002. Bill Forrester took over as executive chairman. For the first time in its history Laing did not have a member of the founding family at the head of the company.[4]

The business expanded rapidly in the late 1990s, such that for the year ended 31 December 2001 its turnover was in excess of £1 billion. Following significant losses on certain construction contracts[5] it adopted a new policy of having the PPP / PFI businesses, in which it had been quite successful, as core activities. As a consequence it disposed of its construction division, which was sold to O'Rourke in 2001,[6] its property developments divisions, which were sold to Kier Group,[7] and its house building arm which was sold to George Wimpey in 2002.[8]

In December 2006 John Laing plc was acquired by the Private Equity arm of Henderson Group.[9][10]

The Laing Rail division - operators of Chiltern Railways and London Overground (with MTR Corporation), and holders of a stake in the open-access railway operator Wrexham & Shropshire - was put up for sale by in September 2007.[11] The division was purchased by German rail operator Deutsche Bahn in January 2008, subject to approval by authorities.[12]

In June 2008 John Laing formed a consortium with Hitachi and Barclays Private Equity called Agility Trains to bid for the contract to design, manufacture, and maintain a fleet of long-distance trains for the Intercity Express Programme.[13] The bid was successful and the contract was awarded to the consortium on the 12 February 2009.[13]

Current operations


John Laing now has operations in the UK, North America, Europe and Asia.

Former operations


Laing Construction


John Laing’s former construction division, Laing Construction, undertook a number of landmark projects including:

The M1 motorway completed in 1959,[14] Coventry Cathedral completed in 1962,[15] Clifton Cathedral completed in 1973,[16] the Sizewell B nuclear power station completed in 1995,[17] the Second Severn Crossing completed in 1996,[18] the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff completed in 1999[2] and Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital completed in 2001.[19]

Laing Rail


The subsidiary Laing Rail owned and operated Chiltern Railways and was joint operator of London Overground (with MTR Corporation) and Wrexham & Shropshire (with Renaissance Trains). In 2008 Laing Rail was sold to Deutsche Bahn.[20]


  1. Birthdays Archived 2011-06-29 at the Wayback Machine The Times, 18 January 2008
  2. 2.0 2.1 Cardiff stadium 'financial disaster' Archived 2004-03-14 at the Wayback Machine, BBC News
  3. Green light for Laing rail stake Archived 2015-02-09 at the Wayback Machine The Independent, 10 March 1999
  4. John Laing names new chairman Archived 2022-05-08 at the Wayback Machine Evening Standard, 4 December 2001
  5. Business: The Company File Laing axes jobs after stadium loss Archived 2004-05-26 at the Wayback Machine, BBC News
  6. Laing shares halve in value Archived 2008-04-11 at the Wayback Machine, BBC News
  7. Out-of-fashion Kier shares are just a hold Archived 2022-05-08 at the Wayback Machine[not in the source given]
  8. Wimpey takes over again as UK's biggest housebuilder Archived 2014-06-27 at[not in the source given]
  9. Henderson takeover[permanent dead link][not in the source given]
  10. Building article[dead link]
  11. "Chiltern Railways auction attracts strong interest". Reuters. 2007-09-17. Archived from the original on 2022-05-08. Retrieved 2007-09-18.
  12. Deutsche Bahn Archived 2022-05-08 at the Wayback Machine Press release - 21 January, 2008
  13. 13.0 13.1 "New train fleet 'to boost jobs'". BBC News. 12 February 2009. Archived from the original on 15 February 2009. Retrieved 12 February 2009.
  14. "Motorway archive". Archived from the original on 2007-12-19. Retrieved 2007-12-25.
  15. National Gallery of Scotland Archived 2008-01-30 at the Wayback Machine[not in the source given]
  16. "Clifton Cathedral Guide". Archived from the original on 2007-12-20. Retrieved 2008-01-01.
  17. British Construction Industry Awards Archived 2008-12-01 at the Wayback Machine[not in the source given]
  18. "Bridge legislation". Archived from the original on 2012-09-09. Retrieved 2007-12-25.
  19. CABE Archived 2009-02-04 at the Wayback Machine[not in the source given]
  20. Deutsche Bahn announces acquisition of Laing Rail Archived 2008-05-13 at the Wayback Machine 21/1/2008

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