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Asian crash strips UK consultant orders

OVERSEAS WORK for British consultants has collapsed in the wake of the South East Asian currency crisis.

The latest workload survey from the Association of Consulting Engineers reports that overseas orders in 1997 were down 26.5% on the previous year. The situation is actually even worse, as the figures ignore inflation.

The most significant fall came in South East Asian region where orders dropped 30.3%.

This work accounts for just under half of all overseas projects won by British consultants. Some sectors appear at an almost complete halt following the completion of major projects and the current economic uncertainty.

The value of airport projects on which UK consultants obtained work last year was just £145M ($237M), compared to £3.1bn in 1996. In the wake of the suspension of Yangpu port development in Southern China, the value of land planning and development projects collapsed from £2,668M to £25M. Other significant falls were in the railways sector (down 61%) and the roads market (down 56%).

Only the mechanical and electrical sector, where projects worth a total of £4292M were won, and the structural engineering market, where orders rose by 33%, showed a revival.

Orders also fell by 62.5% in Europe, 44% in India and 33.4% in Africa. The few bright spots were the Middle East, where orders shot up 144% and South America, with the value of new projects up from £26M in 1996 to £971M last year.

The UK home market proved more resilient with gross fees up 15% to £1.28bn in 1997. Private finance PFI projects accounted for 8% of those won last year, compared to 1% in 1996.

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