Defence helps WS Atkins to report profits

WS ATKINS, the engineering group, said yesterday its full year pre-tax profits had risen nine per cent to &pound;100.2m, beating analysts expectations and sending its shares to their highest level in more than a month.<br /><br />The company &ndash; which is helping build the Olympics, construct Crossrail and upgrade the M25 &ndash; said its defence, oil and gas sectors had performed strongly, as they saw less impact form the global economic downturn. <br /><br />The Middle East and UK building markets were stabilising, it added.<br /><br />&ldquo;The UK economy will be bumping along with minor improvements ... and with some minor downturns, for probably the next two years,&rdquo; <br />chief executive Keith Clarke said yesterday. <br /><br />The group also said it sees liquidity returning to its Middle East region, where it saw clients delaying bill payments during the year.<br /><br />Panmure Gordon said while concerns about its Middle East exposure and general UK demand trends would remain dominant issues, it reiterated its &ldquo;buy&rdquo; stance due to the wide spread of its operations.<br /><br />The broker praised the &ldquo;diversified characteristics&rdquo; of the work the engineer was involved in. <br /><br />Atkins plans a final dividend of 17.25p , making a total 26p, up eight per cent.<br /><br />During the second half of last year, the company laid off about 1,200 staff.<br /><br />Most jobs were lost in its UK and Middle East commercial and residential property-facing businesses.<br /><br /><strong>FAST FACTS </strong> WS ATKINS<br />&9679; Full year pre-tax profits at the company rose nine per cent to &pound;100.2m.<br /><br />&9679; Defence, oil and gas helped the company beat analyst expectations, as they were less impacted by the downturn.