STOBART Group is back in the black.

The aviation, warehousing and biomass group, which operates Carlisle Airport, today reported pre-tax profits of £10.0m for the year to February, turning around a loss of £9.4m in 2014-15.

Underlying profits from continuing operations – setting aside exceptional items – almost doubled from £9.3m to £18.4m while turnover was 8.6 per cent higher at £126.7m.

Chief Executive Andrew Tinkler said: “This year we have delivered improved profitability in all five divisions with the foundations, management and organisational structure almost set to achieve our objectives and deliver our plan.

“We are on track to deliver our strategy by 2018 and drive shareholder value through our three growth operating divisions of energy, aviation and rail, while generating a cash surplus through the exit of our infrastructure and investment portfolios at the right time allowing increasing returns to shareholders."

Stobart Group can trace its roots to the 1970s when the business began as an offshoot of an agricultural contracting business in Hesket Newmarket.

It sold a majority stake in the Eddie Stobart road haulage business two years ago to concentrate on in its other interests, principally aviation, warehousing and biomass.

The financial year saw it complete construction of a freight distribution centre at Carlisle Airport and then agree a sale and lease back deal on the property for £16.9m.

It said at the time that the sale to Gramercy Europe, a real estate investment fund, would be a “catalyst” for inward investment at the airport and would not affect plans to start scheduled passenger flights to London Southend, Belfast and Dublin.

The bulk of the 315,000sq ft freight distribution centre is sub-let to Eddie Stobart.

The latest accounts reveal that the airline Stobart Air, in which Stobart Group holds a 45 per cent stake, carried 1.4m passengers and is continuing to grow.

The report says: “The airline returned to profitability in 2015 and continues to work with London Southend Airport and Carlisle Lake District Airport as well as other airports to create further route development opportunities.” 

However, it also emerged today, just as the annual results were published, that Stobart Air's chief executive Sean Brogan is to leave the airline after his plan to lead a management buy out was rejected.

Despite a fall in passenger numbers at London Southend, Stobart says that it still expects the airport to be handling 2.5m passengers a year by 2018. 

Its energy division supplies more than 1m tonnes of biomass fuel annually and is on track to achieve its target of 2m tonnes by 2017-18.

Meanwhile the rail division, which built the distribution centre at Carlisle Airport “on time and on budget” has a “strong order book”.

Mr Tinkler added: “This is an exceptional time for the Stobart corporate family and its shareholders.

"Our energy and aviation divisions are finishing the groundwork in preparation for a period of rapid growth.

“We remain focused on delivering the strategy and realising superior growth and shareholder returns from our strong service, infrastructure and logistics heritage.”