WS Atkins anticipates future growth for the energy sector

The energy sector heads the list of growth areas for UK engineering, the boss of WS Atkins said today as the company announced half-year results.

Chief executive Keith Clarke announced a slight fall in the company’s half-year operating profits compared to this time last year, noting the results demonstrated resilience in a challenging market.

‘In the UK, nuclear new-build, nuclear clean-up, renewables offshore, national grid renewal…are significant areas in which we have put significant effort,’ he told The Engineer on a conference call with reporters.

Atkins recorded an operating profit of £48.3m for the six months to 30 September 2010, compared to the same period in 2009 and excluding the purchase of US firm PBSJ. Total revenue was down by more than five per cent from £701.2m to £664.2m.

‘[These results] demonstrate the resilience of a multi-disciplined, focused engineering and design consultancy,’ said Clarke.

‘We have taken timely action and continue to operate in what we believe is quite an uncertain environment, but the results are showing the robustness of that strategy.

‘[Our lower revenue] reflects the markets that we’re in. There is not a boom market, except for in some niche areas like aerospace and oil and gas.’

Clarke added that he expected the UK economy to remain subdued, with no rapid recovery for the foreseeable future.

He said government cuts would have a severe effect on construction for a long time but he welcomed the government’s infrastructure plan and applauded the coalition for behaving more like a private sector client in trying to renegotiate contracts.

Last week, Atkins and its partners unveiled its plans for the Crossrail stations to be built across central London and the Docklands.

The firm is also the official engineering design services provider for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games

‘The first two [Olympic] projects are both going tremendously well,’ said Clarke. ‘The Olympics is a stunning success… This is a showcase for the UK’s design, construction and engineering industries.’

He added: ‘Crossrail is in early days. I think we’re very pleased with the work we’re doing.’