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Gas buoys Amec despite US drop

FINANCE Overseas gas deals offset slowing North American market

A BUOYANT oil and gas sector is helping Britain's biggest contractor offset the continuing slowdown in work across the Atlantic in North America.

The firm saw orders for its oil and gas business increase a quarter in the first half with new deals in the Caspian, Kuwait, Korea and Australia taking its order book to £1.2 billion.

Amec is also looking to pick up more work in the burgeoning UK nuclear power sector, helping clean up sites for BNFL.

But finance director Stuart Siddall said its US and Canadian business was still plagued by a slowdown in industrial work, with only the mining and oil extracting sectors improving.

The firm continues to reduce its construction work in the UK and overseas, with many of its contracting jobs limited to PFI and long-term framework deals.

In the six months to June pre-tax profits went up 5 per cent to £37.5 million but £42 million of goodwill and exceptional items, following the disposal of its US construction management arm, dragged the firm down to a £5 million loss.