COACH, bus and car body manufacturer Mayflower Corporation is poised for recovery after enduring its toughest ever year.

The company, which has former Prime Minister John Major as a non-executive director, said it had won much new business.

Order books in its TransBus division, which includes the Plaxtons plant in Scarborough, employing 200 staff, were at record levels, while Land Rover, Aston Martin and DaimlerChrysler had also placed contracts with the firm.

"Despite current market uncertainties, we anticipate a continuing increase in market share," a spokesman for Mayflower said.

"And with solid order books and the cost-cutting programmes already in place, we are confident that the group will continue to prosper."

Final results bore the scars of the downturn last year, with underlying pre-tax profits last year nearly 40 per cent lower at £30.2m.

The group launched a widespread restructuring programme after seeing demand tumble in the US and Europe in light of the economic slowdown.

Costs linked with up to 1,000 job cuts and non-core disposals pushed Mayflower into a bottom-line pre-tax loss of £29.2m. Turnover was up to £647.3m compared to £592.8m in 2000.

Chief executive John Simpson said business and world events had "conspired to challenge the very core" of the firm last year.

He said 2001 had been the "toughest year yet" in the group's twelve-year history.

Mayflower's vehicle systems arm suffered as the market for heavy trucks in the US dived with operating profits more than halved to £9.3m.

The group's plant in Scarborough was rationalised early in the year with production of its Pointer bus range transferred to Falkirk, leading to 500 job losses.

Shareholders will receive a total dividend of 3p, down from 4p last year.