Happily, my quest for eternal youth was helped by Atkins chief executive Keith Clarke, who gave analysts a school lunchbox each at the company's investor relations day last week. This was supposed to be a natty way of demonstrating the company's commitment to the government's £5bn-a-year secondary school building programme. Instead, it resulted in chaps and chapettes in the City walking around the Square Mile looking rather nostalgic for their old A-Team lunchboxes.
Enough of this childish nonsense. The investor day obviously impressed the market, with shares in Atkins up 4.4% to 590p by close of play Friday. This was a year-high, and by the time you have read this most erudite copy it should have topped six quid.
Kier also performed strongly, up 4.8% to 692.5p, again a year high. This was at least partially a response to the contractor's impressive interim results, which saw a 37.3% increase in pre-tax profit to £16.2m. Coupled with the £32.25m acquisition of six development schemes from Sainsbury's, the contractor should remain on the up-and-up in April.
AIM-listed building maintenance firm Enterprise fared less well, slipping 2.3% to 312.5p. This was despite announcing a strong set of 2003 figures last week, with pre-tax profit up 23% on the previous year at £16m.
Persimmon is nearly in the FTSE 100. I fancy its growth will continue …
Hunch of the week
Laing's announcement last week that it had made a pre-tax profit of £21m in 2003, as opposed to a loss of £14m the previous year, finally pushed the PFI specialist through the two quid barrier, as has been long predicted in this column.
The company was up 6.7% last week to 206p.
Amec was another contractor that enjoyed a rather jolly week. It bought two specialist engineering businesses in France with combined net assets of £2.45m and won two more contracts in Iraq. Coming weeks could also be strong for Amec as it awaits the award of a justice and security infrastructure job in the same country. Last week Amec rose 2.8% to 308.25p.