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Company spotlight: Atkins

FINANCE

ATTACKING a key client on results day is often a tactic employed by executives keen to lay the blame for poor results on anyone but themselves.

Atkins chief executive Keith Clarke was certainly not doing that when he claimed that the Government and its part-privatisation of London Underground had been hampered by a lack of 'joined-up thinking' Under the circumstances this was hardly a savaging and an £8.8 million rise in interim pre-tax profits to £26.6 million made the tactic more curious.

Parts of the City showed caution over Atkins, with brokers Panmure Gordon downgrading it from 'buy'to 'hold'with a target of 730p.

Yet most were more encouraged, with ABN Amro and Arbuthnot both reiterating an 'add' rating as Atkins doubled the interim dividend to 4p.

And the City should be encouraged at this performance.

Turnover was flat at £464.4 million and is likely to stay this way over the full year but pledges of increased spending from key clients such as the Highways Agency and Network Rail will be beneficial.

Atkins reckons it has a 15 per cent share of the £1 billion roads market and a £300 million underspend by the Highways Agency this year could dent any firm with that sort of exposure, yet Atkins successfully countered this.

Had the management been venting frustration at the agency, their gripe may have been understandable.