AN engineering firm employing hundreds of North-East workers has struck a £2bn deal to expand its presence in the offshore energy sector.

Amec, which runs its European headquarters from Darlington, has agreed to buy US company Foster Wheeler.

Bosses say the deal, announced as Amec revealed a record £4.1bn order book, will allow it to win more contracts in oil and gas markets.

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The move comes just a day after The Northern Echo revealed Amec plans to create 700 North-East jobs this year by taking on welders, pipe fitters, tank erectors and riggers across the region.

Foster Wheeler employs more than 13,000 workers in 30 countries and has offices in Middlesbrough.

Amec, which has more than 400 staff in Darlington, provides technical support to clients around the world in energy, mining and infrastructure projects.

The Foster Wheeler deal is expected to double Amec's revenues outside its European heartland and strengthen its position in Latin America.

Samir Brikho, Amec chief executive, said: “We continued to make good progress in 2013, and continue to expect good underlying revenue growth in 2014, with ongoing strength in the conventional oil and gas and clean energy markets.

“I'm also delighted with the offer for Foster Wheeler because that combination is attractive.”

Mr Brikho was speaking after Amec's full-year results revealed a three per cent rise in underlying earnings to £343m, driven by its oil and gas businesses in the North Sea and the Middle-East.

It is now in the process of taking on new staff, with 1,300 UK workers set to be recruited in 2014, including 700 in the region.

A spokesman told The Northern Echo: “There are always peaks and troughs in the asset management business and the need for recruitment is high at the moment.

“The company is growing overall and needs more workers.”

Earlier this year, Amec secured a five-year £255m deal with the Kuwait Oil Company to provide project management and consultancy services.

It was also chosen to carry out a £158m deal with Kuwait National Petroleum Company to provide project engineering and management services for the Mina Al Ahmadi, Mina Abdullah and Shuaiba oil refineries.