CRUMMOCK has reported signs of recovery in the construction market, which was hit hard during the economic downturn.

The Midlothian-based building firm said it is beginning to see a slow increase in potential business opportunities, which is translating into more work for private and public sector clients.

In the latest accounts for Crummock Holdings, newly filed at Companies House, directors wrote: "The order book and pipeline is positive, with new long-term private sector clients won and new multi-year framework contracts in both the private and public sector having been won."

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The directors noted, though, that conditions remain tough in the sector, adding: "The continued high levels of competition result in accompanying pressure on margins."

The economic downturn that followed the financial crisis of 2008 triggered a big drop in spending on construction projects and left sector players competing hard for a share of a much reduced workload.

However, privately-owned Crummock's accounts provide signs of a welcome improvement in conditions during the year to March.

The company increased gross profit margins to 10.6 per cent, from 9.5 per cent in the preceding year.

While turnover fell by seven per cent to £16.2 million, from £17.5m, it was around 12 per cent above forecast.

The improvement came during a year when the economic recovery in the UK gathered steam. Crummock also benefited from being active in sections of the market which had remained busy during tough times.

In December the company said it had enjoyed increased demand from oil and gas firms for the protective citadels it makes. The bullet-proof citadels are designed to keep workers safe in the event of attacks on facilities such as offshore rigs.

Crummock has refurbished accommodation modules on an offshore floating production storage and offloading vessel.

Its client list includes US oil and gas giant ExxonMobil.

Regarding overseas sales, the company noted: "With a steady order book for 2014 and a targeted approach to increase our client base we, expect to increase turnover in the coming year."

Crummock won a place on Scottish Enterprise's account management scheme for high growth firms earlier this year.

The company worked on the long-running Edinburgh trams project.

Crummock made £527,000 pre-tax profit in the year to March, down slightly on the £542,000 achieved in the previous year.

The average monthly number of employees increased to 112 from 103.