The chief executive of global giant Atkins has said the industry is still in ‘turbulent times’
Speaking as the company revealed surprisingly good half-yearly figures, Keith Clarke said that the market would not get much better for some time, but added, ‘overall, it won’t get significantly worse.’
In the six months leading to up to September, the outfit reported only a 1 per cent drop in turn over – dipping from £710.8 million to £701 million – while its operating margin had actually risen to 7.3 per cent from 6.8 per cent (click here for full the figures). Profits, however, were down by 13 per cent.
Clarke admitted that, though hiring in some areas, staff numbers were expected to continue to fall from the current 16,235 level to below 16,000 having already dropped by 11 per cent over the last six months.
The chief executive said the company was ‘well-prepared for the continuing turbulence’ and had already successfully redeployed 400 staff following the downturn in various sectors – including the Learning and Skills Council debacle.
Clarke said the company had also geared up for a change in emphasis in public spending from new build to major refurbishment and had factored in the forthcoming hiatus on new projects and approvals which will be thrown up by th forthcoming general election next year.
He said: ‘We expect to see an increase in heavy duty refurbishment projects as new build schemes are cancelled or stalled. There are schools and court which still need to be occupiable.
‘But it is optimistic to think the public sector will be offering money for many new buildings.’
Clarke went onto say that companies that could not trade in the current market would find themselves in trouble. He added: ‘As far as public and private work, we are at the bottom of the recession.
‘Though I can’t see the situation getting much worse, it won’t get much better either. We are in for another two years of recession.
‘But, despite the considerable turbulence in the market, we are confident of the work we have in hand and the quality of that work.’