MINOAN Group has seen its share price rise by more than 8% after pre-tax losses narrowed at the travel group to £1.18 million from £1.29m in its latest financial year.

The Glasgow-based group reported a 37% hike in the value of holidays sold by its travel and leisure division to £51.2m for the year ended October 31.

The division made a pre-tax profit of £604,000 from continuing business, up from £413,000. Minoan cited the strength of its cruise and golf tour packages, which grew ahead of the market.

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However, the division saw revenue fall marginally, from £9.45m to £9.22m, which the company attributed to changes in the way consumers' money is protected after they have booked their travel.

Managing director Duncan Wilson said: "From our perspective, the things that are of principal importance are that our total transaction is up by 37% to just north of £51m, our gross operating profit is up by over 40% to just over £600,000.

"All things in our travel business this year are trading significantly ahead of last year, so we would anticipate that this upward curve will actually accelerate this year rather than anything else."

Minoan noted that total transaction value was up 10% and gross profit by 15% in the first five months of the year. On current form corporate travel and cruise are the division's best-performing sectors, with both enjoying annual growth rates of more than 20%.

Asked whether its travel business was seeing the fruits of economic recovery, Mr Wilson said last year's results "primarily" reflected the benefits brought by unifying its various travel agencies under the Stewart Travel brand, and from the front and back office synergies which have followed.

But he added: "Having said that, last month was our strongest in terms of growth since we began.

"I don't think we [Scotland] are fully recovered yet, but we are definitely on the right track."

At group level, Mr Wilson declared the "exciting" progress has recently made in its long-running project to build up a luxury resort in Crete, where it owns 23 kilometres of unspoilt coastline.

Its proposals, which may see it build up to five, five-star hotels, spas and two golf courses, will go to a final vote by the regional government in Heraklion today after the £200m project was backed by the local municipality of Sitia.

The final barrier to overcome is securing presidential decree, which is expected to take two months.

Noting that the project was the reason Minoan initially came into being, 18 years ago, Mr Wilson said: "It's a long, long journey the group has been on. We believe - and nothing is guaranteed - we will be in a position very shortly to be able to show to shareholders the value crystallisation that will come from our Greek project.

He added: "It is going to be a very exciting six months coming up."

Last year Minoan secured a £5m loan facility from Hillside International Holdings. It said the funding from the Jersey-based family wealth office is being fund growth and further acquisitions.

Since year-end Minoan has used the funds to help acquire Inverurie-based Martin Singer Travel, giving it a foothold in Aberdeen and its growing corporate travel market.

The deal, which remains subject to due diligence, will be the eighth acquisition to made by its travel division to date.

Minoan has also moved to reverse its sale of a 20% stake in its travel and leisure business since year-end, a deal aimed at ensuring shareholders benefited from its financial performance. It bought the stake back from the mystery investor for £930,000 after offloading it for £770,000 on July 31.

Shares in Minoan Group closed up 1.25p at 16.12p.