WS Atkins financial results for 2013 and 2014

Business focus: Atkins moves closer to blue-chip heaven

A leading engineering consultancy continues to raise its profile, while a British chip designer eyes IP growth.

WS Atkins is a stock-market-listed multinational infrastructure engineering and design group that rarely makes big headlines. This is partly because many of its activities are not that ‘sexy’ in engineering terms. It is also because the business has not yet grown to the point where it would gain entry to the ranks of the FTSE-100, thereby winning the ‘blue chip’ status so favoured by the financial media.But that could all change for the 76-year-old British company. Its latest annual results showed yet another yearly rise in revenues and profits. For the year-to-end March 2014, underlying profits – stripping out cash from disposals – increased 7 per cent to £106m on the back of a 2.6 per cent rise in revenues to £1.75bn compared with the previous year.

Chief executive Uwe Krueger predicted that, with its likely growth rate, the company could become a FTSE 100 firm in the next decade. One of Atkins’ strengths is probably just the sheer range of its design and engineering activities, many of which are or have been in major projects.

The company led the reclamation and recycling work when the ground was dug up and laid for London’s Olympic Park, and it was responsible for the redesign of Trafalgar Square. It is currently working on feasibility studies for the proposed High Speed 2 rail scheme to link the capital to the Midlands, and has also been designing train stations for the London Crossrail development. Further afield, it is involved in the designs for the new Dubai Opera House.

About half of group revenues come from the UK, and the company suggests it is aiming to spread its wings internationally by attracting more work in the Middle East and Asia, including in China and Vietnam. It is also working on masterplans to regenerate cities in India and other parts of the world.

In the UK, rail is the company’s fastest growing business, Krueger said, with a number of major signalling, electrification and station design projects begun last year.

Atkins also has aerospace and defence clients including Airbus and the Ministry of Defence, but it said it expected a slowdown in the aerospace area as projects move to the production stage.

The energy sector is a continuing strong area, the company said. Revenues for its environmental, engineering and other services for the oil and gas, and nuclear industries grew nearly 12 per cent last year, with a 6 per cent increase in its energy staffing to more than 1,400. In the UK the group is expecting to recruit 600 extra staff, which takes the global headcount to around 18,300.

However, the company admitted that challenges it faces in the coming year include its non-transportation activities in the US and reduced demand in aerospace.

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