European construction plant sales reached a 10-year high in 1998 as contractors prepared for a euro-fuelled boom in construction spending, according to a report by Off-Highway Research consultancy.

Sales of £20bn for heavy plant and equipment were described as ”little short of startling”, and ascribed to a combination of low interest rates and planned government spending increases now that the euro has been launched.

Spain and Italy were the most buoyant markets for plant sales in 1998, but Germany also saw a marked improvement after several years of static sales. Britain was the only European country to show a slight fall in plant acquisitions.

In the run-up to the euro, Euro-11 governments kept to the strict spending limits imposed by the Maastricht Treaty. But contractors are clearly gambling on a return to previous high spending habits.