OIL and gas engineering firm Plexus Holdings has confirmed plans to pay its first dividend since the North Sea industry was hit by the downturn triggered by the crude price plunge.

Aberdeen-based Plexus said it will pay out £1 million to shareholders next month.

The payment will be worth around 1p per share.

It signals confidence in the prospects of the firm, which was hit hard by the slump in activity that followed the sharp fall in the oil price from the summer of 2014.

The Aim market-listed company suspended dividend payments amid the downturn, after making a final 1.75p per share paid in respect of the year to June 2015.

Plexus reduced its reliance on the hard-pressed North Sea exploration market by selling a division that supplied equipment for drillers to TechnipFMC for an initial £15m in October 2017. The company decided to focus on trying to win orders for the use of its equipment on production wells and developing new technology.

At the time of the sale, directors said Plexus would consider returning some of the cash received to shareholders.

The company hit an obstacle in February when it issued a profit warning citing pressure on margins and costs.

Plexus received a big boost earlier this month after achieving a breakthrough in the key Russian market. Gazprom placed an order to use its wellhead equipment in exploration work under a licensing arrangement in Russia that was not affected by the TechnipFMC deal.

While the partial recovery in the oil price since late 2016 has encouraged interest in exploration in the North Sea, drilling fell to a record low last year.