Laing says glut of PFI work helped pre-tax profit increase to £13.1m for the six months to June 30.

Pre-tax profit at construction group John Laing has more than doubled to £13.1m for the six months to June 30 2004. Sales grew by 37% to £270.5m and pre-tax profit in its core businesses of accommodation, roads and rail leapt 23% to £15.7m.

Chairman Bill Forrester said that the improved performance was a consequence of the group’s focus on the PFI/PPP sector. "The first six months of 2004 has seen further substantial progress in the development of our portfolio of infrastructure projects, with robust profits growth and an enhanced valuation underpinned by the developing secondary market for PFI project equity."

The valuation of Laing’s PFI/PPP work rose to £277m at the end of June, from £250.3 at December 31.

The group is confident of a strong performance for the rest of the year. It is preferred bidder on projects with a capital value of £1.9 bln with a future equity commitment of £50m. It has been shortlisted on a further four projects since the end of the half-year, which have a combined capital value of £565m.

Laing said it saw more opportunity both in the UK and overseas, noting the European PPP road market is expected to be worth 34bn euros in 2005-2008.

Forrester said: "We remain confident of achieving a very encouraging overall outturn for the current year."