The original company, WS Atkins & Partners, was established by the late Sir William Atkins in 1938 with offices in Westminster in London. In its early years the practice specialised in civil and structural engineering design work but expanded rapidly after World War II into specialist services in town planning, engineering sciences, architecture and project management.
In 1996, WS Atkins was admitted to the London Stock Exchange and began trading as WS Atkins plc. In 1996 it also acquired Faithful+Gould, a cost and project management consultancy firm.
In the late 1990s WS Atkins worked on the Burj al Arab hotel, which was completed in 1999.
The company has been trading under the Atkins name since 2002. In that year it also bought Hanscomb, construction consultants.
The company experienced a number of financial difficulties in 2002, with the share price falling to 50p, the Chief Executive, Robin Southwell, resigned, along with Finance Director Ric Piper, who was also told his new job at Trinity Mirror was no longer open to him.Keith Clarke replaced him, joining from Skanska.
Atkins was one of the five shareholders in Metronet, the London Underground maintenance company that failed in 2007 leading to Atkins having to write off its investment.
In 2009 Atkins was selected as the official engineering design services provider for the London 2012 Games. The company provided building services design, civil engineering and structural engineering, acoustics, fire protection engineering, and accessibility services.
Atkins staff levels declined as a result of the global recession, with losses of approximately 3000 staff between April 2009 and February 2011, although the overall headcount remained relatively stable with the acquisition of the American company known as PBS&J in August 2010.PBS&J, founded in 1960, was a Florida-based, nationwide provider of engineering, planning, architecture, construction, environmental, and program management services.
In June 2011, Atkins announced it was buying the oil and gas business of Finnish global consulting firm, Pöyry for €17.25 million. As a result of the acquisition, around 130 staff from Pöyry's Perth, Stavanger and Aberdeen offices integrated into Atkins' Energy business unit.In 2014, Houston-based oil and gas offshore engineering business, Houston Offshore Engineering, was acquired for £45 million. This acquisition added another 150 people to the business and increased the headcount of oil and gas specialists to over 1,000 from its operations worldwide. In 2014 Atkins were in the running to purchase Parsons Brinckerhoff from Belfour Beatty, but were out bid by WSP.
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