Tube deal lifts Atkins back into the black

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The Independent Online

WS Atkins, one of the companies which has taken over maintenance of the infrastructure of London Underground, yesterday revealed the project had rocketed its finances back into the black. The engineering group also said it was trebling the dividend payment that it had previously slashed.

WS Atkins, one of the companies which has taken over maintenance of the infrastructure of London Underground, yesterday revealed the project had rocketed its finances back into the black. The engineering group also said it was trebling the dividend payment that it had previously slashed.

Atkins has suffered from over-fast expansion into support services, and has had its fingers burned by being involved in various private finance initiative projects with the Government. But its prospects have looked more sound in recent months, with pre-tax profits rising to £62m in the year to 31 March, after a £45m loss last year.

About one-third of Atkins' profits came from the first year of its involvement in Metronet, the consortium now running two-thirds of the Tube. Atkins' profits from Metronet are set to rise further. Last year's £12m profit from its 20 per cent investment in the consortium will rise to £20m in the current year as contracts to redesign Tube stations and Underground communications systems begin to build up.

However, as Atkins unveiled its dramatic reversal in fortunes it also said its finance director had quit. Stephen Billingham, who held the post for the past 18 months, is going to take up the equivalent post at British Energy. He is being replaced by the company's financial controller, Robert MacLeod.

A report last week criticised the cost to taxpayers of the public private partnership, which the Government brokered for the modernising of the Tube.

The National Audit Office predicted the PPP would cost the public £1bn a year to repay. That will give the firms involved an annual return on their investment of 20 per cent - considerably higher than profits made by companies involved with other Government-led projects, the body said.

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