Stobart Group says it is making “strong commercial progress” in its aviation and energy divisions, ahead of publishing its full year results in May.

In a pre-close trading statement and capital review update, the Cumbrian-based group, also said it was trading in line with expectations, ahead of publishing its result for the year ending February 28 on May 15.

Buoyed by the announcement that commercial flights will commence at Carlisle Lake District Airport in July, Stobart Group said there was a 33 per cent increase in passenger numbers, to 1.5 million, from its other airport, London Southend, which will see three Ryanair based there from April.

The majority of the Group's planned future investment is set to take place at the airport – which will have daily services to Carlisle Lake District along with Dublin and Belfast airports – with an ambition to serve up to 10m passengers a year, it added.

It confirmed that it had disposed of its regional airline and aircraft leasing businesses in return for a 30 per cent stake in the Connect Airways consortium – which includes Virgin Atlantic and Cyrus Capital – and this week competed the takeover of troubled airline Flybe.

Any profit after tax from Connect Airways will be included in the group’s financial results, it added.

Meanwhile, Stobart Energy delivered 1.3 million tonnes of renewable fuel to the three plants it supplies in the UK and Ireland, up 45 per cent on the previous year.

In the statement, published on the London Stock Exchange, it said that the group would be seeking compensation from the plants due to “challenges” it had experienced during the commissioning stage, having had to carry non-underlying pre-contract costs until they recently became fully operational.

Its Stobart Rail & Civils has undergone a review and, as a result, strengthened its management team to “put in place a more disciplined approach to contract quality, focusing on securing contracts with external tier-one customers”.

The measures – a response to a reduction in profitability against management expectations revealed in its interim results – have helped improved results in terms of securing new business, it added.

Stobart Group said it is also reviewing its capital requirements to “accelerate and deliver its ambitious plans to fund future growth and shareholder returns from operating cashflow on a sustainable basis”.

On its dividend to shareholders, the statement added: “In light of the current assessment of our investment requirements and cash flow the Board believes it would be more appropriate to move to a twice-yearly dividend made in equal payments of 3p per share. The first payment of 3p per share is expected to be paid in July 2019.”