TROUBLED climate change consultancy AEA Technology, based in Harwell, yesterday faced a meltdown in its share price.

It warned investors they could be left with nothing after the company failed to find a solution to its balance sheet woes.

Shares at the firm, which is quoted on the London Stock Exchange, plummeted more than 80 per cent at one stage yesterday to just 0.04 of a penny. In November last year shares were trading at 3.5p.

The firm, which in the past has advised the White House on climate change issues, employs about 1,000 consultants worldwide.

The company – until 1994 a part of the old Atomic Energy Authority – has seen its stock market value all but wiped out after a gamble on US expansion failed to pay off.

It has been hit by weaker-than-expected trading at its Washington-based business Project Performance Corporation and is sinking under a £34.3m debt pile and £165.5m in pension liabilities.

The group said a turnaround plan drawn up by interim chief executive John Lowry – who took over after Andrew McCree quit in the wake of a profits warning in November – was not enough to address the debts and pension costs. In a statement, it said: “The board has been unable to achieve a long-term solution to the existing levels of net debt and the significant ongoing funding costs of the group’s retirement benefit obligations.

“The board does not envisage there will be offers for the share capital of the company and expects that such options will result in little or no value for shareholders.”