Design and engineering consultant Atkins is engaging with Chinese contractors to collaborate on future UK nuclear new-build projects, its CEO has said.
Atkins UK and Europe chief executive Nick Roberts told Construction News the firm had “established relationships with a number of progressive Chinese outbound contractors” to work with in the UK.
Mr Roberts added that projects such as Hinkley Point C, Sizewell in Suffolk and Bradwell in Essex were “of great interest to us”.
His comments came ahead of a major acquisition by Atkins in the nuclear market. The consultant bought American-backed nuclear engineering company Energy Solutions for £206m.
Last year, Atkins signed a memorandum of understanding with the China National Nuclear Corporation, in a move aimed at supporting China’s entry into the UK new-build market.
Mr Roberts said Atkins saw “exciting” opportunities in the nuclear sector following the expected announcement of the final investment deal at Hinkley that would pave the way for work to begin on the Somerset site.
“We are very positive about what we see happening at Hinkley in ensuring that project is unlocked and progresses – we have been involved in that project for many years and we are excited about what might start to happen in the next couple of years.”
He added that Atkins was working with the government “to plan the next stage of nuclear new-builds”.
The consultant also joined forces with Chinese contractor China State Construction Engineering Corporation to bid for work on Wanda One’s £900m commercial project in central London.
His comments came as Atkins posted an increase in pre-tax profit of 38 per cent for the first half of the year, on the back of improvements in the UK market.
Pre-tax profit jumped to £53.8m for the six months ending 30 September 2015, compared with £39m in the same period of 2014.
Revenue grew 9 per cent to £904.6m, up from £831.4m, while its operating margin increased by 1.2 percentage points to 6.6 per cent.
Turnover at the consultant’s UK business increased by 7 per cent to £426.4m, with an operating profit of £29.1m.
Margins rose to 6.8 per cent, compared with 5.7 per cent in the same six months of 2014.
The half-year to September also saw the number of people employed by the company in the UK increase to 9,865, up from 8,737.
Atkins attributed the rise in its UK revenue to an improved performance in its transportation and water business as well as its ground and environment division, following a difficult trading period last year.
The company said its appointment to Highways England’s Collaborative Delivery Framework had also contributed to its results, along with winning work with Heathrow and Gatwick airports.
Atkins predicted a healthy pipeline of work for the rest of the year as a result of the government’s increased commitment to infrastructure spending.
Mr Roberts said: “We are calmly confident for the future and we are encouraged by the government’s approach to infrastructure.
“But obviously, like everyone else, we remain cautious and wait to see more detail.”
Atkins subsidiary Faithful + Gould also had a strong six months, with its contract management work and administration services work at Hinkley Point C contributing to this.
The growth in Atkins’ UK business was matched by growth in its Middle East business, where operating profits grew by 27 per cent to £11.3m due to a number of major transport projects in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the firm said.
However, profit at its North American and Asia-Pacific businesses dropped by 17 per cent and 3 per cent respectively.