ALEXANDER Dennis the Falkirk-based bus builder has said it expects to achieve another strong financial performance this year after growing profits by 56% in 2012, writes Mark Williamson.

Accounts for Alexander Dennis show the company made £24.2 million pre-tax profits in the year to December compared with £15.5m in the preceding year. UK sales rose 3% to £316m, helped by demand for vehicles for the London Olympics in the first half.

While the uncertain economic outlook weighed on sales in the second half, the UK bus market grew by 17% to a three-year high of 3009 chassis registrations. Alexander Dennis, which employs about 900 people in Falkirk, said it retained its UK market share at around 47%.

The company said it was well placed to cash in on growing demand for lightweight, fuel-efficient vehicles after investing heavily in this area. It has formed a joint venture with a US manufacturer to target this market in North America. Total overseas sales rose 227%, to £165m, following strong growth in Canada and Hong Kong and the acquisition of Custom Coaches in Australia. Alexander Dennis expects to maintain strong momentum in international markets this year.

"Whilst the macro outlook in the UK remains mixed, we are cautiously optimistic that the strong financial performance in 2012 will be maintained in 2013," said chief executive Colin Robertson.

Alexander Dennis was saved from administration in 2004 by a consortium including Stagecoach co-founders Sir Brian Souter and Ann Gloag, Sir Angus Grossart's Edinburgh-based Noble Grossart merchant bank, and metals-to-property entrepreneur Sir David Murray. The company refinanced its core UK bank facilities recently.