Waste manager Augean (AUG:AIM) surprises the market with robust numbers driven by better-than-expected performance in its North Sea-focused division.

The impact difficult oil and gas markets would have on Augean's North Sea Services (ANSS) unit, which provides drilling waste management and decommissioning services, has been a source of uncertainty since prices began to plunge in late 2014.

Evidence parts of its business are struggling is demonstrated by a £2.9 million impairment charge taken against a unit which treats North Sea drilling mud.

But Aberdeen-based ANSS grew revenue and profit in 2015 after winning three contracts over terms of three to five years each.

Decommissioning is seen as a longer term positive for Augean given the amount of North Sea infrastructure which will need to be removed.

But its exposure to production-related waste does not appear to have hurt the business too much either.

'During 2015, ANSS outperformed expectations, despite increasingly challenging conditions in the North Sea oil and gas market which have been evident since the latter part of 2014,' says chief executive Stewart Davies.

'Key to this successful performance has been the continued strategic traction of the business in moving up the supply chain and dealing directly with oil and gas operators and tier-1 customers in this market, which increases the potential for the business to widen its service scope directly with those customers.'

Group-wide revenue gained 11% to £61 million, driven mainly by increased construction-related waste.

Pre-tax profit increased 12% to £6 million and adjusted earnings per share increased 15.6% to 4.53p.

The £2.9 million impairment of goodwill, a non-cash charge, reduced actual earning per share to 1.6p.

The charge was taken against Augean's Industry and Infrastructure division, though the assets written down are used for thermal treatment of North Sea drilling mud, a process known as indirect thermal desorption.

Shares in Augean trade 9.1% higher at 48p.

Issue Date: 22 Mar 2016