Consultant WS Atkins has formed a major projects unit to focus on long-term capital outsourcing deals.
The group said there was growing customer demand for such projects, pointing to a recent deal with Shell to manage 35 000 petrol stations across Europe as an example.

Chairman Alan Rudge also said the group was planning to up its investment in PFI and public-private partnerships to strengthen the next phase of the group's growth.

Atkins posted healthy results for the six months to 30 September. Pre-tax profit grew 10% to £18.5m, while turnover rose 40% to £314m.

Chief executive Mike Jeffries said that with the growth of large outsourcing deals, opportunities for the group had never been greater.

The results received a mooted response from the City, however, with shares dropping 54p to 862.5p following the announcement.

One analyst said the shares were a little expensive at present owing to concern over the level of margins the group were achieving. The analyst said: "They are going to have to work hard to justify their current rating."