Commercial and leisure industry contractor Artisan UK says it is on the look-out for mergers and acquisitions in a bid to become a major player in the specialist contracting market.

The building services company, which floated on the Alternative Investment Market in 1998 after demerging from Environmental Property Services, became the subject of takeover speculation itself last month when Channel Islands-based entrepreneur David Rowland bought a 14% stake.

Rowland, who took property group Inoco private in 1996, is understood to be keen to inject some of his property assets into the group.

Artisan recorded a 72% rise in pre-tax profit before exceptional items to £1.9m for the 15 months to 31 March 1999.

Its turnover was also up 69% to £28.4m from £16.7m in the 12 months to 31 December 1997. Earnings per share increased 19% to 1.3p.