The global credit tightening has led lighting equipment designer and manufacturer FW Thorpe to sound a cautious note as it reported a rise in profits yesterday.

The Redditch company saw pretax profits in the year to June 30 rise by 22 per cent to £9.1 million on sales up by five per cent at £46.5 million.

Chairman Andrew Thorpe said: "The strength of our market depends on others having money to spend on new health centres, office buildings, schools, and as long as money availability remains, our potential market remains. Currently there appears to be a large black cloud somewhere in the vicinity called the sub prime mortgage market.

"If money become tight or people are not able to borrow so easily, companies will not build new HQs or expand their group. If money is not available for refurbishments, they will need fewer lights and there could be a knock on effect for us.

"If this cloud goes overhead then things may be difficult but should it miss us, then we have the products and enthusiasm for another satisfactory year."

Broadening its market base was one reason why FW Thorpe, which employs around 500 people, improved its profits.

Export sales at the AIM listed company rose by 19 per cent during the period to £7.3 million.

Sales from the Thorlux division to Germany were up by 140 per cent and Ireland ahead by 190 per cent, following a decision to have their own sales staff rather than agents in these countries.

The firm was now looking to open up a new operation in another European country this year, Mr Thorpe said.

"We were thinking about having our own people in these markets, rather than going through an agent. We wanted somebody who would be spending 100 per cent of their time on our products."

Meanwhile, nearly all of the company's divisions enjoyed record years.

Thorlux, the firm's largest company which produces commercial and industrial lighting equipment saw sales up four per cent and profits rise by ten per cent.

Mackwell, Thorpe's emergency lighting control gear and systems maker, also achieved a record year, as did Compact Lighting, the makers of retail space lighting.

The prospects for the Philip Payne business, which moved to new premises in Soli-hull during the year, were described as encouraging with the firm about to launch two new products this year.

Mr Thorpe said: "We have had a reasonably buoyant market, helped by the introduction of new products."