INDUSTRIAL insulation and fire proofing engineers Chieftain, of Newcastle, has announced a reduced turnover for last year.

Overall turnover for 2002 was £14.8m, compared with £17.3m the year before.

The company said the reduction was not caused by a decline in new orders, but a delayed release of work already on the books and hold-ups in agreeing final contract values.

However, pre-tax profits for last year rose to £774,000, compared with £738,000 in 2001 - an increase of five per cent. Basic earnings per share rose from 5.74p per share in 2001 to 6.35p per share in 2002.

Company chairman Peter Wardle said Chieftain had consolidated its position in new markets over the past three years, increasing its order book from £13m at the end of 1999 to £29m at the end of 2002.

He said: "The company has a long history of marine outfitting and has benefited greatly from a resurgence of warship building for the Ministry of Defence in recent years.

"The company is tendering for new work in this sector to major shipbuilders in the UK."

He added: "The pipework fabrication and erection business of R Blackett Charlton Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the group, has experienced a very busy year and has contributed significantly to the overall group result."