Equipment inspection, maintenance and certification group Lloyds British Testing is back in the black after making a profit in the first half.

The company turned around an £80,000 loss last year to report a £101,000 surplus in the six months to June 30.

The performance came on the back of a 13 per cent increase in sales from £6.04 million to £6.84 million.

The situation had improved further with sale of the Powered Access Division last month for £490,000, which helped reduced the gearing of the group to 46 per cent.

With the sale of the hire and powered access divisions the company, which employs 250 people at its head office in Four Oaks, is focussed entirely on engineering services.

Chairman Frank Lewis said: "We are pleased to advise the group has seen a return to profitability during the first six months of 2005 compared to the same period last year.

"The group is continuing to focus on engineering services where it believes it has a competitive advantage.

"The board is looking to increase its margins by further reducing its cost base through the disposal and reduction of ongoing property leases now that the hire and powered access divisions have been sold."

But Mr Lewis sounded a note of caution, saying that market conditions remain uncertain with increased oil and steel prices having a detrimental effect on costs.

He added there had been an increase in bad debts with a number of its client companies going into liquidation.

The group said it was not paying an interim dividend but would review the situation at the end of the year.