Amec chief executive Sir Peter Mason has told the City that the £5m bill for restructuring the group's senior management will be recouped within a year.
Mason said: "Payback will come in less than 12 months." The changes have seen Amec create three geographical divisions for its UK, European and North American operations. Chief operating officers reporting directly to Mason will run these businesses.

The changes are part of the preparation for the integration of French firm Spie, which Mason said he expected to acquire next year. Amec owns 46% of Spie and holds an option to buy the remaining 54%, which is owned by 12,700 of Spie's 25,000 employees. The acquisition will increase Amec's overseas business from 53% of turnover this year to about 63%.

Mason said the preparations for the Spie acquisition included rationalising Amec's "back office, support services and the like".

He declined to comment on the number of redundancies he expected, but predicted that the takeover would entail "very little structural change in terms of job losses".

Mason made his comments last week when Amec announced a pre-tax profit before exceptional charges of £116.7m for the year to 31 December 2001, up 18% on 2000. The exceptional charges, which totalled £20m, were for the closure or sale of more than a dozen non-core businesses, including steel contractor Watson Steel of Bury, Greater Manchester.

After these losses are taken into account pre-tax profit fell to £81m, compared with £82m in 2000. Turnover rose 12% to £4.47bn and net debt fell from £212m to £45m. Mason said: "Our overall financial performance has improved significantly."

Mason hinted that Amec might soon issue corporate bonds for the first time. He said: "It's something we would consider doing in the next 18 months." He pointed out that Spie had issued a Eurobond. However, he added that in Amec's case, "the sums involved would not be very large".