Shares in Ashtead Group were down on the FTSE 250 in morning trading after the equipment rental company reported a rise in revenue and pre-tax profits in the full year ended 30 April.

Group revenue in the period rose 11 per cent to £948.5 million, while pre-tax profit jumped from £5.0 million to £31 million.

Net debt dropped in the year from £829 million to £776 million, despite a rise in capital expenditure from £63 million to £225 million.

The group said it would be raising its total dividend from 2.9 pence per share to 3.0 pence per share.

Geoff Drabble, Chief Executive of Ashtead Group, said, "We enjoyed an encouraging year where our focus on gaining market share and improving yields resulted in strong growth in Group profits.

"The performance of Sunbelt in the US was particularly pleasing with good momentum established that has carried into the new financial year with sustainable improvements in both fleet on rent and yield. Against a backdrop of still challenging end construction markets we are clearly benefitting from both the structural change in the US rental market and self help from the programmes we initiated during the downturn. In the UK, performance also improved in the second half and we delivered year on year profit growth.

"Looking forward we remain cautious over the outlook for end construction markets in the short term, particularly in the UK. However, we continue to benefit from the structural shift to rental, market share gains and the improvements we have established in all key areas of our business. Together with our balance sheet strength and strong market positions, this makes us confident of another year of good progress."

By 09:00 shares in Ashtead Group were down 4.44 per cent on the FTSE 250 to 170.10 pence per share.