Willmott Dixon, the construction, housing and property company, increased profit last year, thanks largely to a strong flow of public sector work and a deal with supermarket chain Morrisons.

The firm's pre-tax profit rose a modest £400,000 to £10.5m in the year to the end of December. This was despite the fact that it had no contribution from Inspace, the support services business it floated on the alternative investment market in May last year. Turnover grew to almost £413m from £410m.

Chief executive Rick Willmott, pictured right, said growth was the result of "being exposed to sectors that have good volume potential in the future".

About 65% of Willmott Dixon's work is in the public sector, working in the education, health and social housing sectors. It is part of consortiums bidding for the government's Building Schools for the Future schemes in Lewisham, south-east London, and Islington, north London, which are both PFI schemes.

It has already completed the £23.5m City of London Academy in Southwark, south London, and is vying for a place on the government's academies framework, which procured using the traditional route. Willmott Dixon also has about £140m of NHS LIFT schemes under its belt.

In 2005 one of its key private sector clients was supermarket chain Morrisons, which appointed it to deliver about 50 rebranded stores in the wake of its takeover of Safeway.

Willmott said although Morrisons would not be a consistent contributor to profit and turnover this year, other private sector clients, including David Lloyd, the sports chain, would contribute to its order book.

All three elements have strong organic growth potential

Rick Willmott, chief executive

Construction is the biggest part of Willmott Dixon's business, contributing £285m of turnover. It had a 2.3% margin.

The housing business (with a 3% margin) contributed the rest. It completed about 1000 social housing units.

The development business, Widacre Homes, did not make a profit but is expected to do so this year with about 70 completions. Willmott aims is to increase that to 400 by 2009.

Willmott said: "All three elements of the business have strong growth potential organically. We are not thinking about acquisitions at the moment."

Results at a glance

Year to 31 December 2005

Pre-tax profit £10.5m (+4%)
Turnover £412.7m (+0.7%)
Secured forward order book £400m (excluding frameworks)
Cash on balance sheet £61.2m (+42%)
Homes completed 1000
Staff incentive scheme payments +41%