America on the horizon as consultant raises half-year profit and turnover 12%.
WS Atkins chief executive Mike Jeffries is planning to expand in the USA. In a statement to shareholders, Jeffries said there was no shortage of opportunities for the group to grow. He said: “We see the US market as attractive for many of the group’s services and a source of global customers. Accordingly, we continue to explore opportunities to develop our business on a significantly larger scale in the USA.”

The multidisciplinary firm, which is in talks to buy construction manager Mace (page 13), recorded pre-tax profit up 12% to £16.8m in the six months to 30 September 1999. Turnover also rose 12% to hit £244.9m.

Jeffries said the group had gone through significant internal change over the past six months and customers were now reaping the benefits. He said large defence and rail contracts would bring additional volume to sales for the second-half figures.

Atkins’ property, transport and management, and industry divisions all improved operating profit, but operating profit in the international division halved to £800 000 because of tough economic conditions such as fluctuations in the oil price and UK interest rates. International work accounts for 13% of turnover. Jeffries said: “The fundamentals of the business remain sound.”

The property division raised operating profit from £3.2m to £4.9m on turnover up from £70.7m to £81.3m. Jeffries said property firm Lambert Smith Hampton, which was bought for £49.8m, was winning incremental work with Atkins through cross selling between the two companies’ customer bases.

The transport arm almost doubled its operating profit to £4m. Jeffries said the roads business had performed well but that there were still considerable fluctuations in rail workload. The company is part of the Metronet consortium bidding for the part-privatisation of London Underground.

Jeffries said the management and industry business had undergone a fundamental restructuring to focus on key markets such as utilities, pharmaceuticals and petrochemicals. Its operating profit was up slightly to £2.9m.