PUB company New Century Inns is on target to achieve its ambition of having 100 alehouses across the UK.

The firm yesterday announced it had doubled its annual profit before tax in 2001-2002.

Executive chairman Alistair Arkley said the money would be ploughed back into the business to grow the stable of pubs.

Mr Arkley led a team of professionals who set up New Century in 1999, in Billingham.

Turnover grew from £2.7m in 2000-2001, to £3.8m in 2001-2002, a rise of 41 per cent. Gross profit was up from £1.4m to £2m (43 per cent) in the same period.

The number of pubs in the chain grew from 31 to 38 and the value of its fixed assets rose from £8.9m to £11.8m.

Mr Arkley said: "This is a superb accomplishment for the whole company and a testament to the talent, drive and sheer hard work of everyone at New Century Inns.

"It is all the more remarkable when you consider that the industry faced difficult trading conditions in 2002, in the wake of the foot-and-mouth crisis and the terrorist atrocities of September 11."

New Century Inns' management team is based at Belasis Business Centre, in Tees Valley, and the company owns pubs from Northumberland down to Derbyshire.