Profits at AEA Technology’s technical products division soared 128% to £9.3m in the year to March, largely on the back of patents for rechargeable batteries.
Its lithium-ion technology patent is due to run out in 2001 but the group has already patented a new polymer rechargeable battery that can be moulded into any shape, has a long life, and is so light it should revolutionise the mobile phones business.
AEA, which was floated by the Government for £200m last September, has dramatically widened its interests into the private sector since it was was spun off from the UK Atomic Energy Authority in 1994.
Its services range from robotics technology and engineering software to rail and air traffic control programmes.
Nuclear sales still accounted for more than 50% of group turnover, up 4.3% at £264m – the first increase for three years.
Government nuclear business continued to decline – down to 17% of turnover (£45m) last year against 23% the year before – but the gap is bridged by increased, higher margin, nuclear work overseas.
Other divisional profit contributions last year were £7.3m for technical services, £3m from consultancies and £4m from engineering, the only division to show a fall (15%) in turnover, although its profits were up by 39%.
Three business added for £18.2m since the float contributed £7.7m to sales. More acquisitions are planned, although with a modest war chest of £20m, a fund-raising looks a must for any sizeable deal.
Increased sales and better margins drove last year’s 22% increase to £24.1m in operating profits. Ahead of flotation, profits grew from a cost saving programme which saw the workforce cut by a third.
The figures show cost cuts contributed only £500,000 to last year’s profits. Increased sales accounted for £2.3m of the growth, improved margins for £1.5m.
Profits pre-tax were up 17% at £18.5m.
By Hugh Sharpe