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Sun 3 Apr 2011 05:55 PM

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Atkins staff return to work in protest-hit Bahrain

Construction sites outside central Manama area saw little impact from riots, says Middle East boss

Atkins staff return to work in protest-hit Bahrain
Pearl Roundabout, used by protesters as a makeshift camp during a month of demonstrations in Bahrain, was demolished last month

Atkins employees who were relocated during the Bahrain
protests returned to work last week, the firm’s Middle East managing director said.

As many as 60 staff working close to the protests were
temporarily evacuated to other Middle East offices, the last of whom returned
to work this week.

“Our office in the World Trade Centre was closed and we
temporarily relocated 60 people to other offices in the Middle East,” said Richard
Barrett, managing director, Atkins Middle East. The firm’s construction sites
within the Bahrain Bay development, which were also closed for up to 11 days
during the political unrest, have also now been reopened.

“The other 120 staff were based on sites far away from where
the protests were taking place, so they continued working. The last of
those relocated returned to work on Monday, and our office has now reopened,”
Barrett said.

At least 24 people have been killed in a month of anti-government
protests across the Gulf kingdom, led by mostly Shi'ite demonstrators.

Bahrain declared martial law on March 15 after troops from
Saudi Arabia and the UAE arrived to help quell protests that have gripped the
Gulf state for more than a month.

The army on March 19 demolished the 300ft monument on the
Pearl Roundabout in Manama, which had become a focal point for protesters.

Barrett said the uprising had taken little toll on construction
sites outside the central Manama area.

“The major sites that we’re working on went back just over
ten days ago now. One project which was delayed was within the Bahrain Bay
development, just opposite the World Trade Centre,” he said.

“The site was shut
and the team was pulled off for 11 days because the project was in the centre
of all the protests. But we’re back on site now.”

Atkins, the world’s largest engineering and design
consultancy, saw minimal impact on its share price as a result of its
operations in the Middle East, CEO Keith Clarke said.

 “The share price
issue for us is more to do with the expectations of the UK economy and whether
the UK economy will double dip or not, that’s been a drag on our share price,”
he said. “The Bahrain situation hasn’t pushed the share price down but what we
haven’t got is credit for the fact that we are in a very strong recovering
market, in a very good position, with a business that is not dependent on
building but is doing rail, environment, defence, and a whole range of services
that traditionally it didn’t do.”

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