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Ashtead reports 22pc profit drop

Plant hire group Ashtead, the owner of A-Plant, posted a 22 per cent decline in full-year profit today, blaming the downturn in the construction sector for hitting sales.

The group, which also own Sunbelt in the US, reported an underlying pretax profit of £87.4 million down from £112.3 million a year earlier.

Revenues for the full year were £1.07 billion up two per cent and profits were down 29 per cent year-on-year after taking out positive currency translation effects.

Ashtead’s chief executive, Geoff Drabble said the shortage of finance for private sector commercial development meant such work was in short supply.

“Whilst infrastructure and utility work continues to hold up, the relative lack of finance available for private sector commercial development makes it inevitable that construction volumes overall will remain weak,” said Mr Drabble.

The company had announced cost reduction programme last December which was now fully implemented delivering operating cost savings of over £100m

“Our business model and capital structure are designed to cope with the cyclical nature of our markets so we were well prepared for this downturn and this is reflected in our robust performance. We took prompt action to control costs and also to address fleet size which is helping us sustain good utilisation,” said Mr Drabble.

“We continue to believe that the fundamentals of our markets remain attractive and that, with our continuing focus on meeting the challenges of current market conditions and on cash generation, we are well positioned for the next phase of the cycle.”

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