GLASGOW-based plant, tool and equipment-hire company GAP Group, which is celebrating a half-century in business this year, has posted record annual profits and turnover as it reaps the rewards of diversification.

The family business, which has also unveiled a restructuring with an eye on growth and succession-planning, highlighted its ability to drive into higher-margin areas by harnessing its broad UK coverage as it announced its annual turnover had exceeded £200 million for the first time.

READ MORE: Glasgow plant, tool and equipment hire company GAP aims above £200m as its half-century nears

Pre-tax profits at GAP, which is run by brothers Douglas and Iain Anderson, rose to an all-time high of £18.7m in the year to March 31, from £16.7m in the prior 12 months, on the back of an 8.8 per cent increase in turnover to a record £203m. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation also hit a record in the year to March 31, rising from £73.1m to £80.4m.

The pre-tax profits for the latest financial year were just ahead of a figure of £18.6m for the 12 months to March 31, 2015.

Chairman Danny O’Neil highlighted GAP’s progress over the last four years by noting that, in the year to March 2015, GAP’s turnover had been £143m and its EBITDA had been £55.5m.

He noted the company’s shareholder funds had grown from £69.3m at March 31, 2015 to £109m in the latest accounts. Mr O’Neil observed this was the first time in the company’s history that net assets had climbed above £100m. GAP now employs 1,858 people. It had a workforce of around 1,350 at March 31, 2015.

READ MORE: Ian McConnell: Can drama-driven Brexiters actually not see the impact of their poor choices?

The company was founded by Douglas and Iain Anderson’s father, Gordon Anderson, in the spring of 1969. The brothers have been running the business since 1988.

Asked if he was surprised that the business had grown to the scale it is today, Douglas Anderson replied: “I am only surprised when I think about it. I don’t think about it very often because I have found thinking about it doesn’t actually achieve anything. You just do what you do.”

Mr O’Neil said: “It is a great story.”

Douglas Anderson said: “It is certainly a big year with quite a few milestones and records.”

GAP has, since 2011, diversified significantly beyond its traditional plant and tool-hire business with the launch of several new divisions. The non-mechanical equipment division hires the likes of crowd-control barriers, and trenching and shoring products. The company has also established a division specialising in the provision of lifting, surveying and safety equipment. It has also launched a welfare division, with a hire offering ranging from portable toilets to liquid-waste tankers.

Mr O’Neil noted the new divisions now accounted for around one-third of turnover, and an even-greater proportion of pre-tax profits.

READ MORE: Ian McConnell: No escape from Johnson’s dire Brexit farce in Paris metro and airport

The restructuring announced by GAP sees Douglas Anderson’s son, Mark, appointed managing director of the business in Scotland and the north of England. He will report to GAP veteran Kevin McEwan, who will be taking on a group operations director role. Mark Anderson, who joined GAP in 2008, and Mr McEwan are both on the holding company board.

Fellow main board member Chris Parr, who previously headed paper manufacturer Tullis Russell and joined GAP in May 2016 as financial director, will oversee functions including information technology, procurement, and human resources as well as finance.

Karen Greenshields, who is the daughter of Douglas and Iain Anderson’s sister Maureen Smith, has been appointed managing director of the lifting, and survey and safety division. Ms Greenshields reports to Mr McEwan.

Iain Anderson’s children, James and Nicola, also work for GAP. In August 2018, James Anderson was appointed general manager of Croydon Plant & Tools, having joined GAP as a major account manager based in south-east England in August 2016. Nicola Anderson joined GAP in 2018 as a major account manager in Stafford.

The company noted all of the third generation of the family working in the business had had to gain external experience before joining the firm. It said this was “the family tradition”.

Douglas Anderson highlighted GAP’s drive into the liquid-waste tanker market as it builds its welfare division, flagging scope to increase this fleet from about half-a-dozen to 80. He noted liquid-waste tankers cost about £120,000 each. He cited potential to serve major construction-sector clients with large building sites through this expansion.

Mr O’Neil noted GAP had achieved record turnover and profits in spite of an “uncertain economic backdrop”, highlighting Brexit-related uncertainty.

In his statement on the accounts, financial services industry veteran Mr O’Neil says: “The theme of the past year has been uncertainty created by a lack of clear direction around the issue of Brexit. Against this backdrop the UK economy grew by 1.4% – half the growth rate of the US and behind the euro area.

"Without question, uncertainty over the nature of Brexit has hit British corporate risk appetite, which is down to a nine-year low. At the time of writing, the outlook is no clearer with economists forecasting UK growth for 2019 in a range between 0.4% in the event of a no-deal Brexit and 1.5% with a deal."

He adds that GAP fully expects the trading environment to remain "challenging and competitive" but highlights the company's financial strength and increasingly diverse product range.