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Atkins signals overseas foray after stock market flotation

CONSULTING engineer W. S. Atkins is planning a push into new overseas markets particularly in South-East Asia and the US after it joins the stock market this summer.

Atkins chief executive Michael Jeffries said this week: We will be looking at ways of expanding overseas, where we are well behind some of our competitors in terms of market penetration.

The Epsom-based company is opening an office in Thailand to add to its bases in Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore. I think there is a lot to go at there, said Mr Jeffries. The firm is also keen to expand in the US.

Atkins is expected to be valued by the stock market at 160-200 million following the sale of between one-third and half of its shares through a placing. The shares will come from the company pension fund and the family of the groups founder, Sir William Atkins. No new money will be raised by the float.

The group, which is 60 per cent owned by its employees, had planned to go public in 1991 but it was obliged to abandon the float on the outbreak of the Gulf War when 35 Atkins staff and their families were taken hostage .

Since then, according to Mr Jeffries, we have been so busy developing our business there hasn't been time.

The firm has expanded from its original consulting engineering business into property and roads management for local authorities. It has also moved into facilities management by acquiring the PSAs building management business in the North- West, Midlands and Wales. The firm has also bought two railway engineering businesses, CEDAC and PowerTrack, and a QS business Faithful & Gould.

The float will follow Atkins results for the year to March which will be unveiled in July. In the year to March 1995, the firm made a pre-tax profit of 20.7 million on a turnover of 196 million.