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Company spotlight: Amec

FINANCE

ONE DAY Amec will post a set of results not weighed down by the burden of goodwill and exceptionals. In 2002 it got clobbered for £66 million and last year got off relatively lightly with a £17 million hit.

Its latest results, those for the six months to June 2004, show pre-tax profits stood at £37.5 million. But yet again goodwill and exceptionals of nearly £43 million caused the results to come unstuck. It is all a bit like a football manager saying his team would have won the game 2-0 if only the opposition had not scored three goals. And for some, it is happening a bit too regularly at Amec.

Earlier this month chief executive Sir Peter Mason made a big noise about the firm's continued withdrawal from lowmargin, high-risk construction work.

No one would question the wisdom of this but what has it been replaced by?

Iraq for starters. Given the recent events in Baghdad, it seems peculiar at the very least for Sir Peter to talk about leaving high-risk work behind.The firm admits returns from its $780 million workload will be in single figures by the end of the year.And what happens if President Bush loses this November's US election.Will his rival John Kerry keep the same rebuilding pledges?

Elsewhere the firm is spying more opportunities in nuclear decommissioning and wind energy and it is still strong in the transport and defence markets.

But for a company that boasts a turnover of £2.3 billion yet turns in a loss of £5 million, Amec really should be doing better.