Consultant forms alliances with contractor Kumagai Gumi and plans office in Tokyo.
WS Atkins has signed up for two ground-breaking alliances with Japanese contractor Kumagai Gumi.

The deals, completed last week, involve Atkins bidding for work with Kumagai in Japan, where it is also planning to open a Tokyo office.

The first joint project involves Atkins and Kumagai bidding to work on private finance initiative projects; the second will see the consultant advising on land decontamination.

Atkins chief executive Mike Jeffries said the two initiatives were part of an attempt to break into the Japanese market.

It had an office in Japan during the 1980s but this was wound down. Jeffries believes the market is now showing some potential for growth.

He said: "The Japanese are becoming keen on using the PFI for all types of project, whether they are roads, bridges, hospitals or schools, and we will be advising Kumagai on bids.

"The Japanese are keen to take advantage of the expertise on the PFI in Britain, but it is unlikely we will be taking equity stakes in Japan." The Japanese government is keen to use infrastructure investment as a means to refloat the country's stagnating economy. It sees the PFI as one way of financing this work, and has been monitoring developments in Britain.

Atkins will also advise on decontaminating soils. In Japan, the regulations governing brownfield sites are stricter than in the UK and sites are often left undeveloped because it is too costly to clean them.

Jeffries believes that the UK approach of recycling brownfield land has a role in Japan.

On the Japanese economy in general, Jeffries said: "We are proceeding with caution, but there are interesting situations appearing in South-east Asia. We plan to use the strong pound to help us pick up opportunities." The two deals have been put together by Barry Hutt, a director in Atkins' property division.

Atkins was split into three separate operations on 1 April to allow it to provide a broader spread of services across all its regions.

Jeffries believes the changes are among the most fundamental in the group's history. The new divisions are transport, including road and rail; property, including building design, defence services, facilities management and QSs Faithful & Gould and Silk & Frasier; and management and industry, including water, tunnelling, oil and gas, and science and technology.

Separate Atkins offices previously specialised in particular areas, but Jeffries wants to see each region gain equal expertise in all areas.