x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Atkins says revenues will surge

Atkins, the UK-based engineering firms, expects to double its revenue from the Middle East in the next five years, the CEO says.

WS Atkins, the engineering consultancy behind some of the UAE's largest projects, expects to more than double its Middle East revenue in the next five years.

The region currently accounts for 13 per cent of the company's £1.4 billion (Dh8.2bn) annual revenue, the chief executive Keith Clarke told The National.

"Five years from now I would be very surprised if it is less than 25 per cent of the business," Mr Clarke said. "And I think it may be well more than that."

The London company's regional growth primarily will come from energy and infrastructure projects in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi, Mr Clarke said.

Current projects include a contract to lead the design of the Jeddah Airport expansion and another to work on the preliminary engineering for the first three phases of the Union Rail project in the UAE.

Three years ago 95 per cent of Atkins's Middle East work focused on new buildings and 70 per cent was located in Dubai; now 30 per cent of the work is on buildings and only 30 per cent is in Dubai, Mr Clarke said. Atkins has not suffered any significant losses from the turmoil in the region, he added. "The disruption we've had in the recent fiscal unrest is less significant than the snow disruption in the UK."

Atkins last November reported £70 million in revenue in the Middle East for the first half of its 2010-2011 financial year, compared with a full year total of £136m for 2009-2010.

Overall revenue for the six-month period ended September 30 dropped 5.3 per cent from the year-earlier period, to £664.2m, although operating profit remained essentially unchanged.

"The company is very proactive in adjusting to the business climate," said John Lawson, an analyst with Investec. "They don't waste time."

With the UK and Europe still in a slow period, Atkins has been expanding its reach, primarily through acquisitions. Last year the company expanded in the US by buying PBSJ, a consultancy, for US$280m (Dh1.02bn).

The Middle East is a key target for Atkins's growth, said Mr Clarke, who took over the company's top position in 2004.