Write-downs in Libya and restructuring costs contributed to the slump

Profit at structural engineering firm WSP Group almost halved in the first six months of 2011, compared with the same time last year, according to annual results published this week.

The firm, which issued a profit warning in June, saw its operating profit slide from £18.3m in the six months to June 2010 to £10.1m for the same period in 2011 in its half-year results.

The slump was partly down to the £5.1m write-downs in Libya and the £2.2m cost of restructuring to deal with the cuts in the public sector.

The firm said it would continue to diversify, particularly into rail and water projects. The firm’s revenue was up 2% to £362.2m in the months to June 2011, compared with the same period in 2010.

Chief executive Chris Cole said WSP would concentrate on more private sector work in the UK. He said: “We are currently 50-50 private and public and would expect to move to a two-thirds, one-third split in a year’s time. We have a strong heritage in the private sector, so we are in a good position to win work in an improving market.

WSP’s property divisions performed best, with a £13.8m increase in revenue, while transport did worst, with a fall of £8.5m. The firm also said its strength in Sweden would help
it in future. Cole said he planned to boost staff numbers there by 20% to 2015, to become the largest consultant in the country, overtaking the current biggest firm Sweco.

Cole said he expected profits for 2012 to return to 2010 levels, which were £18.3m for the first half of the year.