Building firm Carillion has revealed annual sales of £5.4 billion – four per cent up despite challenging market conditions.

The Wolverhampton-based company specialist said underlying profit before tax was up 16%, to £182.2 million, with support services making the largest contribution to operations at 52%.

The group also said its Middle East construction services operation continued to perform strongly, contributing 21% of total underlying operating profit, following a successful expansion into Abu Dhabi and a strong performance in Oman

Chairman Philip Rogerson said: “I am delighted to report that Carillion achieved its objective of delivering materially enhanced earnings in 2009, despite challenging market conditions. In view of the wider economic environment, we expect market conditions to remain challenging in 2010.

“However, our performance has demonstrated that the group has a resilient business mix, including strong international businesses, a substantial high quality order book, a good pipeline of contract opportunities, good cash flow and a strong balance sheet.

“Consequently the group continues to be well positioned and we believe that we will make further progress in 2010.”

Carillion, which employs around 50,000 people and operates across the UK, in the Middle East, Canada and the Caribbean, disposed of two non-core businesses – external IT Services and Enviros – across the year, and outsourced internal IT services, generating cash proceeds of £102.4 million

The firm had net cash of £24.9 million at the end of 2009, with net borrowings totalling £226.7 million.