John Dodds, the 61-year-old chief executive of Kier Group, has rebutted speculation that he will shortly step down, saying he “will be around in 12 months’ time for the next results”.

However, he added that he would be looking at setting his departure date ”at some point soon”, and said a search for his successor from within the company was going ahead.

He said: “Succession planning is very important and we are working on this right now. We always look to appoint someone from within the company where at all possible.”

Dodds was speaking after the contractor and housebuilder last week posted a 24% leap in pre-tax profit from £48m to £59m in its preliminary results for the 12 months to 30 June 2006.

Its turnover grew 13.3% to £1.8bn and Kier’s senior management predicted “more of the same” for the next 12 months as the business was “firing on all cylinders”.

Deena Mattar, Kier’s finance director, said the strong set of figures reflected “growth across all divisions”.

The only exception to this was Kier Property, where revenue fell 24%, from £62m to £48m.

Mattar said the company’s construction arm, which consists of a network of regional contractors ,was particularly strong with order books at record levels.

She added that Kier was “always on the look out for new acquisition opportunities” after the purchase in July of regional housebuilder Hugh Bourn for £53m.

However she said there were no businesses that Kier was currently targeting.

Mattar – who would become the only female head of a construction company were she to win promotion – declined to comment on rumours linking her with the job.

Dodds has been with Kier since 1970 and became chief executive in May 2003.