CEO Profile: John Beck

Canada’s top 500 CEOs

CEO #19: John Beck

Financial Post Magazine November 04, 2008

It would take too long to list all the projects Aecon Group’s CEO John Beck has successfully bid on in the past year: schools, hospitals, bridges, highways, airports and power plants. So if you want a snapshot of the performance of the Toronto-based company that built Canadian landmarks such as the CN Tower as well as various international projects, take a look at the results from its 2007 annual report: Aecon reported a massive increase in operating profit ­- $60.8 million, up from $21.9 million in 2006 – and had $1.2 billion worth of projects lined up.

The company’s financial results are all the more impressive considering that the construction sector is struggling with a tumultuous economy, declining demand and increasingly expensive material and labour costs. But analysts believe that Beck, who has spent 45 years building Aecon into the country’s largest publicly traded construction and infrastructure-development company, has positioned it to take advantage of growth in the oilsands, Ontario’s nuclear resurgence and public-private partnerships. “Aecon has control over costs and is in the top three for road building in Ontario,” says Raymond James Ltd. analyst Frederic Bastien. “Meanwhile, the government has just doubled money for road repairs.” Bastien thinks that investors are unjustifiably nervous about an industry where “the projects are just getting larger and larger.”

Moving forward, Beck plans on concentrating on the Canadian market instead of diversifying internationally. “The demand in Canada is still bigger than our ability to meet the needs,” he says. Beck has his eye on a few dream projects too, notably a new Detroit-Windsor bridge and an eastern expansion of Ontario’s Highway 407. “I expect to remain busy for some time.”

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