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Sun shines on Ashtead following Florida raid

PLANT

HIRE giant Ashtead has reported strong performances from all three of its divisions in its half-year results to October 31.

The US hire business Sunbelt has started to reap the benefit of its $1 billion purchase of Florida hirer NationsRent with two months' business adding £59 million to turnover.

Group half-year turnover was up 35 per cent on last year to £422 million, but the cost of the integration brought a halfyear loss of £31 million.

Without the exceptionals, underlying profit was up 35 per cent to £54 million. Sunbelt reported turnover up 41 per cent to £320 million, with operating profit up 35 per cent in the same period to £72 million.

New group chief executive Geoff Drabble said that integration of the NationsRent business was progressing well, with back office integration achieved ahead of plan.

He said: 'Ongoing favourable market conditions allow the board to view the second half with confidence.'

In the UK, A-Plant reported turnover up 15 per cent to £91.5 million, which the hirer said was over four times the rest of the market's average growth of 3.5 per cent a year.

Operating profit rose 28 per cent in the half-year to £11.1 million, with utilisation up 4 per cent to 69 per cent. Mr Drabble said the improved performance had led to the approval of the acquisition of traffic specialist Lux, and that the board anticipated further investment in both organic growth and selected acquisitions.

The only major concern currently for the group is servicing its debt, which stands at an eyewatering £994 million following the NationsRent purchase.