Shares in Ashtead Group were up on the FTSE 250 after the equipment rental company reported a rise in revenue and sharp fall in its losses in the third quarter ended 31 January 2011.

Underlying revenue increased 15 per cent in the period to £221.4 million, while underlying EBITDA rose 18 per cent to £60.3 million.

Ashtead said that it had cut its third quarter underlying pre-tax losses from £12 million in the same period the previous year to £1.7 million.

In the nine months ended 31 January underlying revenue increased eight per cent to £705.7 million while underlying pre-tax profit rose 222 per cent to £28.3 million.

Ashtead said its net debt at the end of the third quarter was £774 million, down from £829 million at the end of April 2010. The group added that it had completed the acquisition of Empire Scaffold in January.

Geoff Drabble, Chief Executive of Ashtead Group, commented, "It was encouraging to see our improving year on year trends in revenue and profitability continue in the third quarter, our seasonally most difficult period. Our high levels of fleet on rent and our continued focus on yield and costs have produced strong results for the first nine months with profits now £20m ahead of last year.

"Whilst we remain cautious about predicting short term recoveries in end construction markets, the momentum we have established in difficult conditions reinforces the Board's long held confidence in the medium term attractiveness of our rental markets.

"Based on our third quarter performance which continued in February, it is now likely that the full year outcome will exceed our earlier expectations."

By 11:10 shares in Ashtead Group were up 5.36 per cent on the FTSE 250 to 196.50 pence per share.