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Harlequin tips into the red after restaurant upgrades

Forth Holdings hiked workforce numbers to 1800 from 1530 during the latest financial year when the company achieved a third successive increase in sales amid tough conditions in the key construction market.

The Scottish electrical engineering specialist grew turnover 8%,to £163 million, in the year to August 31 from £152m the preceding year, helped by its success in winning work on projects such as the Emirates Arena and Sir Chris Hoy velodrome, built for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Owned by the Fletcher family, Forth Holdings has designed and installed the mechanical and electrical systems used in buildings across the UK and has interests in related areas such as facilities management.

In the latest accounts for the group, chairman Duncan Fletcher highlighted the "continuing significant challenges" facing the UK construction market, on which the company relies for much of its business.

However, Mr Fletcher noted Forth had amassed orders worth £1.25 billion. Mr Fletcher believes these will provide strong foundations for growth at the group, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

The accounts indicate the Stirling-based group has been reaping the rewards for its decision to expand, rather than hunkering down in response to the long economic slowdown that has buffeted the sector.

Highlighting the group's success in securing repeat business and referrals, the sector veteran noted Forth had been winning increasing amounts of business through an expanded network of offices in England.

The group's FES Renewables arm achieved what he called a "respectable" first-year performance.

The latest growth in sales was achieved while maintaining profitability at what Mr Fletcher described as "acceptable levels".Pre-tax profits increased 2% to £7.53m from £7.35m the preceding year.

The accounts show the average weekly number of employees during the latest financial year was 1798, compared with 1531 the year before. The group paid £2.5m dividends in the latest year, down from £4.5m.

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