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Speedy banks on more work as north pays off

PLANT - Turnover rises 30pc to £154m and pre-tax profits climb 20pc to hit £15.5m

BOOMING workloads in Scotland and north-west England are helping power up profits at equipment hirer Speedy Hire.

Big infrastructure projects north of the border and a glut of work in Liverpool connected with the city's stint as European Capital of Culture in 2008 are plugging gaps in the hire market caused by the winding-down of projects such as the T5 scheme at Heathrow Airport and the Channel Tunnel Rail Link.

In the six months to September, the firm saw pre-tax profits barrel up nearly 20 per cent to £15.5 million while turnover climbed 30 per cent £154.4 million.

Group operating margins slipped back a half a per cent to 13.9 per cent.

A spending spree which saw the firm buy generator firm LCH for £59 million in May- its largest deal to date - pushed group debt up nearly £90 million to £172 million.

Chief executive Steve Corcoran said a series of apartment blocks going up in Manchester was helping drive turnover.

Analysts are anticipating workloads in these cities and upcoming PFI hospital and school work to lift turnover next year up to £340 million and by a further £40 million in 2008. Turnover in the year to March 2006 was £254 million.

Sales are also being helped by a building boom in Ireland where construction amounts to nearly a quarter of the country's GDP. Last year construction amounted to 32 billion euros.

Mr Corcoran said Speedy had one eye on forthcoming Olympics contracts but these were still a number of years away from being let. But he predicted that national hirers would pick up the lion's share of work on the £3.3 billion scheme.

He said: 'Firms won't be able to support Olympic jobs from a regional basis.'

The firm, which is based on the Wirral, has enlisted the help of nearby Liverpool University to improve its performance.

It is working with academics from the university's business school and has drafted in four specialists to work across the company on a full-time basis.

The firm recently spent £2 million on 400 lighting towers, which now gives it the biggest offer ing in the country.