Buoyant Atkins listening to 'gissa job' requests again

Design and engineering consultancy group WS Atkins topped expectations with its interim profits, and signalled optimism for the future by announcing that it has resumed recruiting.

Design and engineering consultancy group WS Atkins topped expectations with its interim profits, and signalled optimism for the future by announcing that it has resumed recruiting.

Underlying profit before tax in the six months to the end of September declined 5.4% to £43.9m from £46.4m the year before. Broker Peel Hunt had forecast profit before tax of £42.4m.

Statutory profit before tax improved 14% to £50.4m from £44.2m, but this included a £7.6m profit on the sale of the group's non-controlling interest in RMPA Holdings in May of this year as well as £1.1m of amortisation of intangible assets relating to the PBSJ acquisition in North America.

Revenue dipped 3.2% to £815.7m from £842.9m, with the downward trend in the top line partly reflecting the sale last November of the UK asset management business; the disposed of business chipped in with £20.2m of revenue in the first half of the previous financial year.

Performance in the UK was described as "solid" but the North American business continues to suffer weak markets which are expected to endure for the rest of the financial year.

Performance in the Middle East has been hit by project delays and protracted contract wrangling, all of which is soaking up working capital in the region.

For the group as a whole, cash used in operations was £12.6m, whereas the year before it had generated £12.9m from operation in the six months period.

Performance in Asia Pacific and Europe has been strong, while the group's Energy business continues to deliver strong top and bttom line growth.

"The group has delivered encouraging results in line with our expectations, with the sector and geographic spread of our business continuing to provide resilience in challenging markets. Implementation of our strategy continues and the outlook for the full year remains unchanged," declared Uwe Krueger, Chief Executive Officer of Atkins.

"We are pleased to be recruiting again and, in particular, are delighted to welcome over 500 graduates to the group this autumn," he added.

The board has declared an interim dividend of 10.0p per share, representing an increase of 2.6% on last year's interim divi of 9.75p.

JH

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