x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Atkins profits fall as work is delayed

The engineering firm Atkins has seen its profits in the region decline as key projects were delayed.

The United Kingdom engineering firm Atkins has seen its profits in the region decline as key projects were delayed.

Operating profit dropped by 30 per cent to £11.8 million (Dh67.9m) while revenues in the 12 months ending on March 31 fell by more than 5 per cent to £162m.

Global earnings also declined, with operating profits dropping by 24 per cent to £104m on flat revenues of £1.7 billion.

While pension contributions skewed overall figures, operations in the Middle East suffered from a sluggish decision-making process.

"The figures are representative of some of the challenges we have faced. In the last 12 months we have seen one or two longer delays to fairly complex projects," said Richard Barrett, the chief executive of Atkins in the Middle East.

Protracted contract negotiations and delays to major projects led the company to reduce its Middle East headcount by 69 in the second half of the fiscal year.

Atkins did not elaborate on which deals it was left waiting. The company had since seen its fortunes revived, said Mr Barrett, with a pickup in activity in recent months.

The French construction company Vinci recently confirmed to the UK press that Atkins had been selected to do the design work for a £1.3bn package for the Doha Metro.

Atkins is already working on the second phase of the Etihad Rail project, a scheme to cover the UAE with 1,300 kilometres of track. With the first phase linking up the Shah sour gasfield to the port of Ruwais, the second phase will connect Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Al Ain with each other and the Saudi border.

"There remains strong appetite for rail and metro projects across the region, with opportunities to work selectively for design and build contractors," the company said in its annual report.

Atkins is also designing the infrastructure for the Dh7.6bn North Wathba Urban Development in Abu Dhabi, a 42 square kilometre residential complex for Emiratis - a sign that the projects market is slowly shifting from infrastructure to a greater focus on residential developments.

Dubai's ambitions to boost its economic revival by growing its tourism sector have been well received by the company, and growth in business in the emirate is expected. Dubai plans to double the amount of visitors by 2020 and seeks to add 100 hotels to existing stock.

"For the first time in quite a while we are encouraged by the opportunities," said Mr Barrett.