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US boosts Ashtead profits

Pre-tax profits at hirer Ashtead more than doubled to £12.3 million in the quarter ending July 31 from £4.9 million at the same stage last year following a strong performance at its reorganised US division.

Strong growth in the region was boosted by the non-residential construction market. Sunbelt-its US trading name - increased operating profits by over 50 per cent. The division now accounts for around three-quarters of all earnings.

Group turnover increased 12.3 per cent to £145.9 million up from £129.5 million in the first quarter last year.

Operating profits at A-Plant in the UK grew 23 per cent but Ashtead said it expects the rate of growth to slow reflecting the increasingly competitive market.

A-Plant launched a management shake-up at the beginning of the period to reorganise its sales force onto a national basis to improve its service to larger customers.

Ashtead chief executive George Burnett said: 'A-Plant's rate of growth is expected to slow from 23 per cent achieved in the first quarter reflecting the continued competitiveness of the UK market. The recently completed capital reorganisation has strengthened our balance sheet and provided us with substantial flexibility to take advantage of the strong US market.'

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