AEA Technology pulls out of nuclear services business

AEA Technology plans to withdraw altogether from its core business of nuclear services.

The company, spun off from the UK Atomic Energy Authority in 1996, intends to sell its nuclear business and use the capital raised to invest in its rail, envir-onmental and engineering software operations, which it believes offer greater growth potential.

Nuclear contracts include advising the Ministry of Defence on the safety of reactors on Trident and hunter-killer submarines. The decision follows a strategic review of AEA’s operations against a background of disappointing financial performances. The company this week reported a 70% drop in interim pre-tax profits to £2.7m.

AEA chairman Sir Anthony Cleaver said the group’s nuclear operations had been hit by regulatory pressures which had forced its customers to focus on internal procedures.

By contrast, Cleaver said its rail business offered stronger growth prospects, due to the investment needed to meet growing demands for greater safety and reliability.

In engineering software, AEA will look to market its portfolio of products in conjunction with partners, reflecting an industry-wide shift to more complex, multi-licence deals. It will also develop part of its Future Technologies division as a specialist in intellectual property rights and may float it off.

The company this week appointed Stephen Thornton, a former vice-president of BOC Group, as its chief operating officer with a remit to improve sales and marketing performance.