Business roundup

Atkins has taken on 293 graduates and 72 apprentices this month. The energy business will take the highest number of graduates (77), while the Rail business is employing the most apprentices (25). 

Engineering consultant CH2M Hill has unveiled plans to cut 1,200 jobs from its 26,000 workforce to deliver annual savings of around £60M. The firm took over Halcrow in 2011. It said the ‘right-sizing’ of its overhead structure would impact on all global operating units.

Consultant WYG has bought Alliance Planning for £3.2M to create one of the country’s largest planning businesses with around 100 planning specialists.

Recruitment business Hays has reported a 368% rise in UK operating profit for the year to June 30 of £26.2M compared to £5.6M last time. Net fees were up to £246M from £222M and Hays took on an extra 228 recruiters. Construction and property was the best performing sector in the UK with an annual growth of 21% during the year. 

The Chancellor has announced the Autumn Statement will take place on 3 December. Expect an update of the National Infrastructure Plan at the same time.

Hyder has told shareholders that its takeover by Arcadis will be complete by 16 October. The timetable will stand unless there is a counter offer from Nippon Koei.

According to a new ranking from International Construction the world’s biggest contractor is China State Construction Engineering Co. The state-backed Chinese construction giant which has successfully broken into the Middle East market has become the first contractor to earn revenues of more than $100bn.

The UK economy grew by 3.2% in the second quarter compared with the same period last year, slightly higher than the original ONS 3.1% estimate. The services sector - which accounts for around 78% of UK economic activity - grew 1% in the second quarter, the ONS added. The annual growth rate in the sector, 3.6%, was also its best performance in just over six years. Construction was flat in the period but this was an improvement on the original estimate that it had contracted by 0.5%. On an annual basis construction was estimated to have expanded by 4.8%. Construction accounts for 6.3% of economic activity in the UK. Inflation figure for July was 1.6% ONS said in a separate report, down from 1.9% in June.

Pension deficits are highest in companies in the industrials sector according to actuary Barnett Waddingham.  In 2013, combined shortfalls of £9.8bn equated to 8% of companies’ value on the stock market.

Total value of Gulf infrastructure projects is set to reach $86bn this year, according to construction intelligence firm Ventures Onsite, an increase of 78% on last year.  is expected to award contracts worth $26bn this year, compared with $9bn in 2013.

Peter Brett Associates partner John Baker has been elected chairman of The West of England Local Enterprise Partnership’s Construction and Development Sector Group.

The board of Hyder has agreed terms to sell the business to consultant ARCADIS after the Dutch firm increased its cash offer to buy the firm. ARCADIS' revised offer of 730p per share was made on 21 August and easily trumped Nippon Koei’s previous 680p per share bid to buy the consultant by 50p valuing the firm at around £288M. The original bid by ARCADIS for the Hyder business was 650p per share. Nippon Koei is still considering its position.

Costain has reported half year turnover of £529.1M, up from £462.9M for the same period last year. Pretax profit was up 8% to £9.1M up from £8.4M, also for the half year. For comparison, Costain’s 2013 full year figures were £960M turnover and £31M pretax profit. The firm says it has a record order book of £3.2bn helped by new wins including appointment to Network Rail’s £2bn electrification programme and to three transmission frameworks for National Grid. 

A new survey by Parliamentary information service Dods shows that 94% of all MPs think Scotland will remain part of the United Kingdom. The poll questioned 100 MPs ahead of the Scottish independence referendum, which is due to take place on 18 September. The findings support those of another recent poll by Ipsos Mori which also found that 95% of parliamentarians believed that the Scottish people would vote against independence.