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Ashtead hit by slump

CONSTRUCTION plant hire group Ashtead yesterday reported a 22 per cent fall in full year profits, but said it has no plans for a fresh equity raising and remains confident despite a tough year ahead for the construction industry.<br /><br />Ashtead, which rents industrial equipment and tools in Britain and the US, said pre-tax profit from continuing operations before exceptional costs was &pound;87m in the year ended 30 April, compared with &pound;112m last year, while revenue was up two per cent at &pound;1.074bn.<br /><br />A particularly bad fourth quarter performance took its toll, with the group posting a pre-tax loss of &pound;200,000 for the three months to the end of April compared to a profit of &pound;22m last year.<br /><br />The firm warned that a sharp drop in sales would carry over to next year due to a lack of private commercial building projects, which account for half its business.<br /><br />Ashtead chief executive Geoff Drabble said: &ldquo;We would forecast 2009-10 will be difficult. That will impact adversely on margins, as seen in our fourth quarter.&rdquo;<br /><br />The group yesterday saw its stock rise by 6.1 per cent to 56.5p.