Temporary power equipment supplier Aggreko has said it expected further progress this year as it posted a six per cent rise in underlying annual profit that met forecasts.
Chief executive Rupert Soames also said a boom in global commodity prices was helping as mining companies maximising production were using Aggreko's equipment to cool mines.
Aggreko, which also hires out air-conditioning units and generators for events such as the Olympics and soccer's World Cup and recently opened a national operations centre in Cannock, made £42.6 million in profit before tax and exceptional items in 2004, ahead of expectations.
Aggreko's turnover fell 2.5 per cent to £324 million, hit by the weakness of the dollar against sterling. A third of Aggreko sales are in North America and, in constant currency terms, group sales rose five per cent last year.
"The group's underlying trading performance in 2004 was strong, driven by a sharp turnaround in North America and robust growth in Aggreko International," chairman Philip Rogerson said.
He added that for the year as a whole the group anticipated it would continue making progress.
Looking ahead, Mr Soames said gas-fired units were being developed as a more environmentally friendly alternative to diesel, used for 98 per cent of temporary power needs worldwide.
Aggreko will spend £5-10 million this year on the new product, which is aimed at those customers for whom "gas is free" as a by-product of their operations and which would otherwise either be flared off or pumped back underground, he said.
Numis Securities analyst Paul Jones said: "Now halfway through a restructuring programme, it appears that performance has been better than anticipated, though with European operations further into the reorganisation than elsewhere and seeing some disruption as a result we need to keep an eye on 2005."
The final dividend was set at 3.57p, raising the total dividend by three per cent to 5.82p.