During 2006 and to date in 2007, the group spent a total of £96m on acquisitions. These included Permaclean, a national workwear business in Germany. However, it cautions that it sees “no significant overall easing” in the difficult market conditions in the UK.

Preliminary results published on 23 February show that its workwear division delivered strong sales, particularly in the second quarter with the withdrawal of Rentokil Initial from workwear rental, but that price and cost pressures resulted in a significant decline in profitability. The business will need a significant level of new contract wins to offset these effects.

The group’s pretax profit, before exceptional items, for the year to end of December increased to £85.3m from £85.2m the year before. Reported pretax profit was up by 1% to £82m from £81.6m, while total revenues rose by 7% to £704.6m, from £655.7m the year before.

The company invested £20.7m in UK acquisitions during 2006, strengthening its position in specific regions, said Davis Service chairman ChristopherKemball.

“These have contributed well since joining the business, particularly in the second half of the year. Since year end, we have made further acquisitions amounting to £11.4m.

He added that when, Brooks, a major supplier to the UK linen and workwear market, went into administration in February 2007, his company reacted immediately to secure available customer accounts and expected these to bring both increased volumes and, potentially, higher pricing,

Davis’ UK textile maintenance business is carried out by its wholly owned subsidiary, the Sunlight Service Group. In the latest of several bolt-on purchases, Sunlight has acquired Mitre Furnishings for an estimated £10m from the Lawrence family. Mitre, founded in 1946, supplies bed linen to clients that include Buckingham Palace, Eton and Harrow schools and hotels such as Claridge’s, Gleneagles and the Lanesborough.

In the year ahead, Kemball expects further progress in Continental Europe through organic growth, the benefit of bolt-on acquisitions and the expansion of the German workwear business. “Overall we expect to deliver a satisfactory outcome for 2007,” he said.