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Ashtead back in black at year end

Plant hire giant Ashtead is back in the black for the year ending April 2008 after making losses of £42.7 million last time.

Pre-tax profits for the group reached £109.7 million for the year on turnover that edged past the £1 billion mark – up from £896 million last time.

Its UK subsidiary A-Plant saw underlying operating profit rise 46 per cent to £30.2 million due to “strong organic revenue growth and a tight control of infrastructure cost”.

Equivalent figures at its US hire business Sunbelt jumped 21 per cent to £153.2 million.

Ashtead chief executive Geoff Drabble said: “In May, both Sunbelt and A-Plant delivered improved year-on-year performance. We continue to enjoy high levels of utilisation and expect to benefit further from the momentum established in the group.

“Despite the current economic uncertainty, the board anticipates the group continuing to trade in line with its expectations in the coming year.”

Ashtead announced yesterday that it is to sell its Technology Rentals arm to a management-led buy-out backed by Phoenix Equity Partners for £95.6 million in cash.

The firm said that the sale will allow it to focus on developing its core businesses and significantly reduce debt.