Building-and-infrastructure group Morgan Sindall sounded an upbeat note about the market for cheaper housing as it reported a strong start to the year.

The London-based group, with a substantial Midland presence, said the outlook for the affordable-housing market remained positive, while the commercial-property sector continued to show signs of improvement.

Chairman John Morgan told the firm's annual meeting: "Overall, our divisions are performing in line with expectations, trading conditions are positive and we expect the group to take a further step forward in 2005."

Morgan said in February that annual profits grew by more than half at its Lovell division, which specialises in housing for low- income families.

It said at the time that turnover for Lovell - which has its Midlands regional office at Woodgate Business Park, Woodgate Valley, Halesowen and its head office in Tamworth - rose 31 per cent to £364 million.

The arm has been boosted by demand from local authorities and housing associations.

Last year, the company merged its six regional construction operations into a single business under the Bluestone brand.

In its last financial year, Morgan saw pretax profits rise by 34 per cent to £27.9 million, while sales increased seven per cent to £1.22 billion.

Since July, the company has secured new contracts in the Midlands worth more than £15 million.

Key projects currently on its books include an £800,000 refurbishment contract to provide a new regional control centre for the Highways Agency in Birmingham.