Kvaerner Construction is not on its troubled parent group's sell-off hit list, chief executive Keith Clarke insisted this week.

The London-based international construction arm of Norwegian shipbuilding and engineering giant Kvaerner Group this week turned in a solid set of results, in stark contrast to its parent company.

The construction arm reported pre-tax profit up 50% to £12.9m on turnover up 17% to £1.4bn in the year to 31 December 1998.

The Norwegian parent reported losses of £105m on a turnover of £6.5bn in the same period.

Kvaerner Group announced a programme of asset sales in November last year, leading to speculation that the construction businesses could go in order to reduce the company's massive debt.

But Clarke insisted the construction business was safe: "None of the construction companies is on the sell-off list, and that continues to be the case. If you look at our numbers, we are steadily moving upwards. That is not true of the rest of the businesses." Kvaerner Construction has been slowly returning to profitability since it was bought from Trafalgar House in 1996, when it reported a £40m loss. But the business' profit margin is still less than 1%.

"The market is extremely difficult but construction is viable if you do it right. We are going where we expected to, moving steadily forward year on year," said Clarke.

Clarke conceded that Kvaerner Cleveland Bridge, the specialist bridge steelwork business, had made an undisclosed loss.

He said: "We are sticking by all of our businesses in terms of management time and resources. But all businesses must be profitable. Kvaerner Cleveland Bridge has to be as well." He said Kvaerner Construction would be sticking to its general and specialist contracting markets rather than branching into others, such as facilities management. "It isn't fashionable but we've been doing it for a very long time."