Wolverhampton-based building and services group Carillion met forecasts with a 23 per cent rise in 2007 profit, driven by a strong performance in the Middle East.

It also reported that its UK markets were holding up well.

"I wouldn't say we're bullish, but we're not bearish on the UK," chief executive John McDonough noted. "We've had no projects cancelled. Everything is going along very nicely."

Shares in Carillion, which bought Alfred McAlpine last month, fell steeply towards the end of 2007, due in part to concerns about a slowdown in Britain's construction market. It is currently valued at about £1.5 billion.

Mr McDonough said UK construction only accounted for around 11 per cent of group profit and the firm's pipeline of projects, which includes work for the 2012 London Olympics and Heathrow airport's new Terminal 5, remained healthy.

Profit before tax and one-off items was £101.8 million last year on a 13 per cent rise in revenues to £3.95 billion.

Carillion said its order book stood at £16 billion, unchanged from the same level last year, and that its pipeline of possible orders had more than doubled to £3.6 billion.

Operating profit in support services was up 26 per cent, boosted by work for customers such as the Ministry of Defence, BT and insurer Norwich Union.

Contracts such as a £120 million deal to build the House of Musical Arts in Oman helped operating profit in the Middle East business almost double.  Operating profit in construction services, which includes the UK, fell 14 per cent, though this was due to an expected lower contribution from joint ventures.

Carillion proposed a 2007 dividend of 11 pence a share, up 22 per cent on the year.