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Atkins profits up 7.3 per cent excluding Peter Brown and highways disposals

Atkins has posted strong preliminary results for the year to 31 March 2014, with turnover and pre-tax profits up 2.6 per cent and 7.3 per cent excluding disposals.

The engineering consultant sold construction management arm Peter Brown at a loss and its highways services business to Skanska in 2013. The sales contributed to overall pre-tax profit being up 16.5 per cent year on year.

The firm produced a strong cash performance, with net funds up 31.7 per cent (including disposals) at £188.3m and operating cash flow of £95.5m (up from £82.9m in 2012/13).

Overall revenue was £1.75bn, up almost £450m (2.6 per cent) on the previous year.

Its underlying operating margin (excluding disposals) was 6.7 per cent, up from 6.4 per cent the year before.

Staff numbers decreased by 2.3 per cent to an average of 17,489 people.

In its overview of the year, the firm hinted at further disposals when it said its portfolio optimisation strategy was “almost complete”.

The UK and Europe performed strongly, and Atkins said its global design centres in India helped to boost its performance and increase competitiveness.  Highways consultancy and rail were strong sectors.

Atkins said it benefited from a contract gain share after its M25 design project exceeded delivery targets. It saw “opportunities re-emerging for our design and engineering business from the UK education market and infrastructure work associated with nuclear new-build projects”.

The group employed 500 more graduates and in the UK, more than 90 apprentices and it created a women’s leadership council within the group.

On outlook, Atkins said its exposure to transportation markets across the UK and North America meant a with a good backlog of business.

Abroad, it said the Middle East region is benefiting from a “more focused approach” and it is intending to diversify its offering in Asia Pacific beyond the Hong Kong base.

On sectors, it pointed to energy as having a strong pipeline and saw “positive momentum in the year ahead” overall.

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