Improving margins help WS Atkins to keep profit on track

DESIGN and engineering consultant WS Atkins yesterday said it was on target for its full year forecasts while UK margins were improving.

The British company said that it was on course to hit pre-tax profit estimates of £100m.

It achieved a similar level in the previous year, on revenues of £1.7bn.

The company is the engineering designer for the Olympics and has won a string of contracts in the year so far.

It was recently given a five-year contract for the road and drainage systems in Qatar’s capital Doha.

And the firm said that despite a delay in the awarding of railway signalling contracts, UK operating margins were up.

WS Atkins cut 300 staff as a result of the bleak economic environment, as the UK government cut back on outsourcing.

“The UK region has ended the year well and, as anticipated, saw modest growth in underlying headcount in the second half of the year,” the company said in its trading statement.

Atkins is the largest engineering consultancy in the UK and around half its revenues are generated in Britain.

It said it expected to finish the year to March with net cash of about £120m.

The company added: “The group’s operations in the Middle East and Energy have continued to enjoy strong market conditions and have ended the year trading in line with our expectations.”

It added that its north American business was also improving after a slow start.