IMPROVED results from rail and quantity surveying acquisitions helped WS Atkins, the quoted consulting engineering group, lift pre-tax profits by 19 per cent to £12.7 million in the half ending September.
Chief executive Michael Jeffries said the market remained highly competitive, but the firm had improved margins to 4.8 per cent from 4.2 per cent. Turnover rose by 14 per cent to £175.3 million.
He said the level of new work won exceeded the firm's targets and the trend has continued into the second half. Large project wins - such as a £15 million contract to value property for the Highways Agency over the next five years - will underpin the firm's growth prospects.
Profits at Atkins' infrastructure services businesses rose to £4.9 million from £4.0 million on a turnover 20 per cent higher at £107 million. The rail business is pursuing overseas markets and the roads side is growing.
It is working on two PFI road projects, as part of the Connect consortium, and Atkins was involved in the PFI prison which opened recently at Bridgend.
Its quest for other new markets is highlighted by its role in a consortium providing a new ticketing service for London Underground under the PFI.
Profits at Atkins' property services and regions division - which covers its facilities management business - leapt to £2.2 million from £1.4 million. The firm has a heavy workload for the Ministry of Defence but says it will be making a further push into the private sector facilities management market.
Atkins is also developing its county council outsourcing business, notably in Oxford, and its UK regional network has won contracts for major clients including Caterpillar, Massey Ferguson and SmithKline Beecham.
Quantity surveyor Faithful & Gould benefited particularly from a strong UK market as it lifted first half profits to £1.3 million from £1.0 million.
Mr Jeffries said the huge changes within Atkins' diverse markets presented significant opportunities for the group.