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Atkins shares rise despite Metronet hit

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ATKINS' SHARE price shot up 14% to last week on the back of an upbeat trading statement, despite the announcement of an exceptional loss of £36M in relation to its stake in Metronet.

Shares were trading at £11.73 when NCE went to press.

The Metronet liabilities were seen by the City to be manageable, which encouraged the sharp price rise.

'We are in a very strong position not to have debt, ' said chief executive Keith Clarke.

'We've been prudent and we are a fundamentally sound business.' Profi before tax is expected to be significantly ahead of expectations when the annual results are revealed at the end of June, the statement said.

The focus on staff recruitment and retention over the last three years was paying dividends, it was claimed, with 1700 new employees joining the group in the last 12 months.

Net assets are £185M.

'We've got the balance right between people, cash flow and winning work, ' said Clarke.

Finance director Robert MacLeod predicted acquisitions.

'We are targeting niche acquisitions but the strategy is to create growth for the shareholders, ' he said.

(see analysis p14)

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