Support services and construction group Alfred McAlpine has posted a six per cent rise in pretax profits before exceptionals and goodwill to £38.2 million for the year to December 31.
The performance, which enlivened its share price, was driven by strong turnover and profit growth in its Business Services division, it said.
While its infrastructure services business - which accounts for around one third of its activities - experienced "challenging" operating conditions in its key markets during the first half of the year, the strong performance of its other businesses allowed McAlpine to record another year of profit growth before exceptional charges and goodwill amortisation, it said.
The group, which is redeveloping Baskerville House in Birmingham, lifted its annual dividend ten per cent to 12.1 pence.
The results were in line with forecasts from Arbuthnot Securities and driven by a seven per cent increase in group turnover to £931 million from £868.5 million a year earlier.
Its share of profit from PFI schemes grew by ten per cent during 2004 to £4.4 million.
Looking ahead, chief executive Ian Grice said: "Our order book is stronger than it has ever been, with significant levels of business booked for the remainder of the decade.
"We expect to return to double digit growth in 2005 and are confident about the longer-term outlook."
Order books stood at £3.2 billion at the end of the year after the group won £1.1 billion of new business in
2004. Within that order book some £900 million in turnover has been secured for 2005 and some £650 million for 2006.
The London-based company said in a statement that in line with its strategy of developing visible, lower-risk, longerterm earnings it has continued to win long term support services contracts with clients including Airbus, EDS, Northumbrian Water and Severn Trent Water.
McAlpine, which employs 8,500 people, said the rise in profits and its share buyback programme, combined to increase earnings per share before goodwill amortisation and exceptional charges to 30.6 pence from 28.6 pence.
The company bought back 2.7 million shares for cancellation last year for £7.1 million and plans to ask shareholders at the annual meeting in June to renew its buyback authority for ten per cent of the shares.
The group also indicated that it remains in the market for acquisitions, saying it will continue to review opportunities for bolt-on deals that would enhance the company's service offering.
Shares in Alfred McAlpine closed last night up 16.5p to 312p.