Co Cavan based building materials group Kingspan today reported a 34% increase in pre-tax profits for the year ending December 31,2004 and said it was confident for the future.

Kingspan said its pre-tax profits rose to €88m from €65.4m in 2003, while turnover rose by 22% to €958.1m from €783.9m.

Basic earnings per share increased by 36% to 42.3 cent last year from 31.2 cent the previous year. The group declared a dividend per share for the year of 9.6 cent, up 33% from the 7.2 cent declared in 2003.

Kingspan said that the overall construction environment in which it operates is more encouraging than it has been for some time. 'The group's strategy and operations are geared fully towards providing further organic growth, complemented by a degree of acquisition activity,' it added.

Kingspan's Insulated Panels business continued to build on the progress made in 2003 and posted sales growth of 30% with growth evident in all its geographic markets. The division now has 53% of the insulated metal cladding sector and it is the company's goal to drive that market share towards 70% by 2008.

The group's insulated panels business in Benelux reversed the pressures of recent years, while in Central and Eastern Europe, its sales grew by 29%. Plans for the region will be enhanced by the addition of a €12m greenfield plant in Hungary that goes into production in the second quarter of this year.

Kingspan's rigid insulation board business in Ireland and the UK continued to grow market share, mainly against traditional forms of insulation. Now representing 21% of Group turnover, the division's sales grew by 28%.

Representing 12% of group turnover last year, the Off-site and Structural division's sales grew by 28% in 2004.  Off-site building solutions have been at the core of the group strategy for some time, with Kingspan's TEKhaus product gaining ground in a market that its increasingly conscious of highly efficient building solutions and methods - revenues from this product jumped by 43% last year.

The Environmental Containers division, representing 15% of group turnover, put in a 'typically robust performance'. Sales were up by 11% due to a shift in the company's product mix towards more value-added environmental solutions which provided much of the growth.

Sales of raised access flooring represented 12% of group turnover in 2004. At €119m, sales were up 3% from 2003. The sales trend recovery was due to a strong rebound in the performance of the US business, Kingspan said, with revenues there growing by 40%. However, sales in the UK continued to decline and revenues fell  by 15%.

'The macro environment in which Kingspan operates has continued to improve through the second half of 2004 and into the opening quarter of 2005,' a statement from the company said.

'Product development, supported by timely capital expenditure and appropriate acquisitions gives the group confidence in the future ahead, notwithstanding the fact that there will be varying pressures from increased competition in some areas and upward pressure on raw material prices in other areas,' it added.

'The Group feels that the appropriateness of its products to the current construction environment will help it achieve good growth going forward,' the statement concluded.

Kingspan shares closed up 28 cent to €8.84 in Dublin.