The Government is studying options for privatising the company, which trades under the name AEA Technology, and has appointed Barclays de Zoete Wedd as its advisers. James Maltby, chairman, said that he would wish to see AEA remain largely intact but that certain parts of the business would not rest easily in private hands. These include the 500-strong police force that AEA operates on British Nuclear Fuel sites and the continued management of some old nuclear plants.
Mr Maltby said that the decison on privatisation and the form it could take rested with the Government, but added: 'The hardest target to aim for is a flotation and therefore that is our objective.'
The company has historic liabilities related to nuclear work of between pounds 3bn and pounds 4bn but has a letter of comfort from the Government that it will meet these.
There are also believed to be liabilities of about pounds 20m relating to current activities.
AEA reported a loss last year of pounds 46.9m after exceptional costs of pounds 61.6m relating to restructuring and refurbishment of old facilities. This compares with a profit of pounds 16.8m the previous year.
Operating profit fell to pounds 23.4m from pounds 33.3m a year earlier while turnover declined to pounds 415.2m from pounds 429.9m.
AEA has been increasing its drive for non-nuclear and non-public sector contracts. The company is aiming to establish itself as a world-class provider of services including environmental engineering, manufacturing technology, health care and transport technology.