Warning signal

AEA Technology this week warned shareholders that profits were set to fall ‘well short’ of previous estimates following major setbacks to its UK rail business.

AEA said its chairman and chief executive Peter Watson would step down immediately following the negative trading update which confirmed the hoped-for ‘traditional upturn in activity’ had ‘failed to materialise’.

The UK group said the failure of its rail business to close a number of transactions before year-end meant the situation would be even worse than expected.

Aside from its interests in rail, AEA operates in the environmental technology and power sectors.

Andrew McCree, AEA’s managing director, will replace Watson as chief executive. He told shareholders: ‘The financial performance of the group is unsatisfactory.

‘AEA has first-class technology and it is my intention to bring a sharper commercial focus to the business as well as significantly reduce costs — particularly in the Rail division and at the centre.’

The focus for the company would be on reducing debt through disposals and ‘aggressive cost reduction’, he added.

Despite the setbacks, AEA said it would end the year in the black at group level and ‘has the support’ of its banks.