Approaching 2016 with confidence and enthusiasm
The Group is shaped correctly and resourced nationwide for an agile response to market opportunities. Our people are clear about our strategies and their roles in achieving them. We have set parameters for evaluating opportunities and targeting those that suit our skills and our growth journey. There is always more to do, but when you add this to TClarke's exceptional culture of delivery and operational control, together with the strong sense of values, tradition and pride that is ingrained within 'The TClarke Way', we have a strong base to build on going forward.
Major projects won and delivered in our core London M&E business
It has been a particularly strong year for our London business. Our vision to grow from a famous electrical contractor into a true M&E contractor, known equally for both, has been realised. Delivery of major mechanical and M&E projects and the win of two towers at the enormous Southbank Tower project showed that we are a major player in the M&E market. This transforms the scale of our potential markets going forward - effectively more than doubling them. Our success in securing the even larger 22 Bishopsgate project will be equally transformative, providing us with a platform to lead in integrated building services, with major technology advances that have potentially vast market applications.
Major projects won and delivered across our regions
Success in London has been matched across our regions. Our vision for our nationwide offices has been to make a decisive shift from siloed local teams, delivering high quality small scale projects, to a series of regional operations targeting large scale, higher value projects, collaborating to maximise the value of their resources and building the TClarke brand. In 2016, TClarke's regional teams won a very wide range of large scale projects; more than at any time in our history. We have built new strategic partnerships, expanded existing relationships, entered new sectors, expanded into new areas and combined our operations in new ways.
Innovation and investment in the career paths of our people
We launched the TClarke Academy in 2016, as a comprehensive internal training operation aimed at providing a clear route to the top of the organization, giving everyone, whether they be in an engineering, technical or support discipline, career advancement opportunities. At TClarke it is expected for an apprentice to aim for the top. I was an apprentice here and so were most of my senior executive team, so our Training Academy is something that we, as leaders, believe in and are personally committed to driving - and indeed we deliver modules ourselves. In a year when we again took on a far larger number of apprentices than the industry average, the Group retained a far higher percentage of staff than the industry average and built our resource of directly employed people with quality people - the Academy is a further mark of our intent to keep offering the best M&E resource in the UK.
Safety remains our paramount concern
We take enormous pride in every site safety award won by our people and, in 2016, we won more than ever before. The total number of those awards is not significant but the culture that earned them is. I am personally proud of the work our safety establishment carries out to further embed that culture and to keep driving standards forward. We can never rest or become complacent regarding health and safety - we need to keep investing in this area as safety is paramount to our business.
Increased revenue, momentum in markets and a replenished order book
Revenue from continuing operations increased by 14.9% to £278.6m (2015: £242.4m), and underlying operating profit increased by £1.8m to £6.9m (2015: £5.1m). Underlying operating profit, which excludes amortisation and non-recurring items, is the measure used to assess performance against targets and determine performance related remuneration. All regions delivered increased revenue, whilst London & South East and Scotland showed significant increases in margins. Net underlying overheads as a percentage of revenue fell to 9.2%. Our order book grew by 10% to £330m (2015: £300m).
Revenue from our London & South East operations increased by 10.7% to £142.9m (2015: £129.1m), generating an underlying profit of £3.5m (2015: £2.0m). Underlying operating margin increased to 2.4% (2015: 1.5%). We have secured a number of significant new orders across a wide spectrum of work for 2017 and beyond, including mechanical and IT as well as electrical services, with our clients continuing to value our teams of in-house engineers and tradesmen.
Revenue from our Central & South West operations increased by 19.3% to £67.9m (2015: £56.9m) and underlying operating profit improved to £1.0m (2015: £0.9m), with underlying operating margins down slightly at 1.5% (2015: 1.6%). The region continues to benefit from strong client relationships and repeat business. The expansion of our healthcare business and our burgeoning reputation in the South West have presented a number of growth opportunities which should lead to improved profitability going forward.
In the North revenue increased by 28.2% to £53.6m (2015: £41.8m), with the region continuing to benefit from strong client relationships and repeat business. Underlying operating profit was £1.8m (2015: £1.9m). The underlying operating margin was 3.4% (2015: 4.5%), as we invested in our core mechanical and electrical contracting capabilities in the North West and the improved coordination and consistency of our offering across the region under a common managing director.
Scotland's revenue increased by 29.6% to £21.0m (2015: £16.2m), and underlying operating profit was £0.6m (2015: £0.3m), representing an underlying operating margin of 2.9% (2015: 1.9%). Scotland's strong performance continued its recovery evident in the second half of 2015. As well as its continuing strength in the residential market, Scotland has generated significant IT, mechanical and electrical work streams in the commercial sector.