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Atkins upbeat despite 6% profits slide

Consultant Atkins has said pre-tax profits slipped nearly 6% after a year in which it cut staff numbers by 10%.

Restructuring and increased pension costs impacted on the group’s performance as pre-tax profits fell to £96.6M from £102.7M a year earlier.

But chief executive Keith Clarke said they were good results, with operating profit up 9.6% to £113M and an operating margin up from 6.9% to 8.1% for the year ended 31 March 2010.

“They are good results. Yes, we are smaller. Yes, we have reduced staff. But our margin is up and we have improved the business and we are very proud of that,” said Clarke. “We are proud of being an engineering company because the future of the UK is in better engineering.”

Atkins said it performed well at an operating level in the year to 31 March but warned the uncertainty caused by UK spending cuts meant it was prepared for a period of tighter Government spending.

The Epsom-based firm, which works on a host of major projects including the London 2012 Olympic park, said it expected to benefit as clients put greater emphasis on planning and design disciplines to achieve maximum value.

It responded to lower market demand by reducing staff numbers in the financial year from 17,400 to 15,600, while also redeploying 500 people into different roles. The restructuring cost the company around £16M.

Clarke said the firm’s new staff level of 15,600 was now right for the challenges ahead. “We are recruiting in niches and making modest cuts in other areas. But we think there will be stability at this level, plus or minus 100.”

Recent contract wins have ranged from a ten-year road maintenance deal with Oxfordshire County Council worth £350M to its appointment as architect engineer in a consortium to build an experimental fusion reactor in the south of France.

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