AEA boosts work in private sector

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AEA Technology, the consultancy arm of the Atomic Energy Authority that was floated on the stock market last year, is planning a series of acquisitions to increase its private-sector workload and reduce dependence on nuclear clean-up contracts.

Announcing its maiden set of annual results - a 16 per cent increase in pre-tax profits to pounds 19.6m - Peter Watson, chief executive, said AEA Technology was examining further small- scale bolt-on acquisitions.

Turnover from contracts with the old AEA, which is based at Harwell and runs several test atomic sites, has fallen from pounds 60m to pounds 45m and is expected to decline further this year.

But AEA Technology has offset the fall in government contracts by forging alliances with private-sector partners including Sony, Sumitomo, BP, Lockheed Martin and SmithKline Beecham.

Private sector business grew by 18 per cent last year while overseas sales increased by 34 per cent, helped partly by the purchase of a Canadian company, Advanced Scientific Computing. Among the contracts it is working on is a project to design and build the new Scottish air traffic control centre.

AEA Technology has also moved further into the transport sector through the purchase of British Rail Research and is working with GEC Alsthom to supply new trains to Gatwick Express and South West Trains that are compatible with Railtrack's signalling and telecommunications systems.