UK firm Atkins cuts jobs across Middle East operations

Engineering firm lays off 100 staff, while construction group Sweett closes regional business following bribery charge
UK firm Atkins cuts jobs across Middle East operations
By Sarah Townsend
Thu 04 Feb 2016 01:41 PM

UK engineering firm Atkins has laid off 100 staff across the Middle East as it seeks to reduce its operations in the region.

Infrastructure projects have been hit by the falling oil price and sluggish economic growth in the Middle East, with a knock-on impact on engineering and other services firms.

Atkins has no plans to close its business entirely, but said on Thursday it had made 100 of its circa 2,500 regional staff redundant. 

A spokesperson said in a statement: “We have been continually assessing the regional market carefully over the last few months and have seen an ongoing slowdown in awards of new projects across the property and infrastructure sectors.

“Unfortunately, due to these worsening economic conditions, in recent weeks we have therefore taken the difficult decision to make almost 100 people redundant in our Middle East property and infrastructure teams.

“We only ever take such actions after very careful consideration to support the best long term interests of the business, our clients and future work, while positioning us for continued growth when the market improves.”

The statement added: “We will seek to redeploy as many people as possible to other roles.

“Our Middle East business will continue to focus on our core transport infrastructure and property markets, with over 2,000 people operating successfully in the region.”

Atkins has been operating in the region for around 40 years and has 11 offices across the Middle East, with a presence in each GCC country.

It is advising on a range of projects including the Doha Metro and the redevelopment of Port Sultan Qaboos in Oman.

Meanwhile, this week, construction and real estate firm Sweett Group confirmed in a statement on the London Stock Exchange that it has closed down its Middle East business and exited the region.

Sweett was charged with an offence under the UK Bribery Act by the Serious Fraud Office following an investigation into bribery allegations involving its Cyril Sweet International subsidiary in the Middle East.

Allegations of bribery involving an employee at the subsidiary were first made in The Wall Street Journal in 2013, prompting an internal investigation by Sweett which uncovered two contracts deemed suspicious, which the company then reported to the SFO.

Sweett said it intends to service all existing contracts where possible and will assist with the orderly handover of some work to local consultancies.

The statement to the London Stock Exchange said the company was closing its Middle East operations, including offices in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Muscat and Riyadh.

The company said it “intends, wherever possible, to service all existing contracts and, if necessary, will arrange for the orderly handover to local consultancies.”

The process of closing the office is understood to have begun, but no timeframes have been given.

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