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Serco gets a fillip from Asian profit

Serco, the outsourcing group behind the Boris Bikes hire scheme, has reported a 13 per cent jump in profits as strong growth in Asia and Australia more than lustre demand in Britain and America.

The company, whose operations range from running Australia's 1km-long Ghan train and Dubai's Metro to helping service the search and rescue helicopters at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall, said its pre-tax profits came in at £262m, as revenues increased by 7.4 per cent to £4.64bn.

Serco's performance was turbo-charged by a 62 per cent surge in revenues in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Australasia to £780m, as the group focused its attention on this fast-growing area. As a result, the division's contribution to group profits rose from 11 to 17 per cent.

However, the company remained cautious about the outlook for the US and the UK, which still account for about four fifths of its sales, given the huge squeeze on public spending. Serco said its order book stood at £18bn after winning £5.1bn of work in 2011.