Engineer hopes to return to being a ‘net recruite’ this year after job losses last year

Staff numbers at global engineer WSP will grow again in 2012 after having “taken the pain” of job losses last year, its chief executive Chris Cole has said.

WSP experienced a net loss of 232 jobs in the UK in 2011 as it restructured its business away from under-performing divisions such as transport to focus on growth areas including its energy and environment business.

The losses included 163 jobs in its transport division, which Cole admitted was partly down to the “crap” performance of its road business.

There was a net fall of 128 jobs across the group globally, from 8,904 staff in 2010 to 8,776 staff last year.

But Cole told Building that WSP would return to being a “net recruiter” in 2012.

Turnover across the global group grew 1% in the year ended 31 December 2011, from £706.9m in 2010 to £713.3m, while pre-tax profit dropped 2% from £19.2m to £18.9m.

Profit at the consultant’s UK arm fell by two-thirds from £9.8m in 2010 to £3.3m in the year ended 31 December 2011, partly reflecting the £3.6m cost of redundancy settlements.

The consultant’s environment and energy and property divisions grew 10% and 5% respectively, while transport and infrastructure and manufacturing and industry shrank 5% and 4% respectively.

Cole said the company was gearing up its environment and energy division in response to growing demand for renewable projects expertise and mining infrastructure services - particularly in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

He added the firm was focused on increasing the division’s operating margin, which was 3.7% last year.

A “very subdued” performance in the UK road business dragged revenue down 12% at the firm’s UK transport division, from £83.3m to £73.2m - despite major wins on Crossrail and on the High Speed 2 technical and engineering framework.

Cole said the firm saw Qatar as “the new centre of activity in the Middle East” and was “well placed” to win work on the Qatar 2022 World Cup construction programme, which he expects to come to market in 2013.