UK engineering consultant WS Atkins considers selling North American unit

UK engineering consultancy WS Atkins Plc (LON:ATK) is looking into strategic alternatives for its loss-making North American construction unit Peter Brown and expects to be clear about its future this summer, finance director Heath Drewett told Reuters.

The options Atkins is looking at include a closure or a disposal of the operation. An exit would be part of a plan to concentrate on more profitable activities in the engineering and design consultancy field.

In a trading statement, the company said that Peter Brown is still experiencing soft market conditions, but expects an improved margin performance in the second half. The construction management business is seen to post a loss of some GBP6m (USD9.2m/EUR7m) for the fiscal year to 31 March 2013 due to additional costs in closing out its legacy contracts.

However, Atkins anticipates to report annual results slightly ahead of previous projections thanks to the strength of its UK operations. According to Drewett, the company is also considering some acquisition opportunities in the US and the Asia-Pacific, even though it prefers to grow organically. It targets aerospace and defence as well as energy businesses.