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By Costas Pitas
LONDON, June 12 UK engineering consultancy WS Atkins reported a 7 percent rise in underlying profits on Thursday, boosted by infrastructure projects in China and the Middle East which it said gave management confidence for the year ahead.
The company, which operates in markets including Britain, the Middle East and Asia Pacific, reported an underlying pre-tax profit of 106.4 million pounds in the year ended March 31, slightly ahead of analysts' expectations, which averaged 104.93 million pounds, according to Thomson Reuters data.
It also raised the full-year dividend payout by 5.5 percent to 33.75 pence a share after increasing the final dividend to 23.25 pence from 22 pence last time, and said it expected "positive momentum" for the business in the year ahead.
The firm said this year it was hoping to expand into South East Asia and was eyeing rail projects in Malaysia and architectural work in Vietnam.
Chief Executive Uwe Krueger told Reuters the firm was also looking to expand its airport design business and was scouring for opportunities in the Far-East.
"The major city airports in China have now been pretty much done," Krueger said. "We are now in the second tier cities and more and more contracts are coming, which we are purusuing."
The firm also sees more work to be won in the Middle East energy market as the rapidly growing economies look to diversify away from oil and gas with the construction of nuclear and solar power infrastructure and power grid upgrades.
The firm, which is aiming to reduce its exposure to Britain which accounts for roughly half of its group revenues, posted overall revenue of 1.75 billion pounds for the 12 months to 31 Mar. 2014, 2.6 percent up on last year.
In Britain, where it has work on a wide range of infrastructure projects, the firm said it was able to boost its competitiveness and performance by using design centres based in India to deliver work in what remains its largest market. (Reporting By Costas Pitas; Editing by Greg Mahlich)