Sunbelt Rentals posted a 19.4-percent revenue increase in the fiscal first quarter with $432.1 million, compared with $361.1 million for the same period a year ago. EBITDA zoomed 36.4 percent from $134.6 million in the year-ago quarter to $183.6 million in the recently concluded quarter. Operating profit jumped 54.7 percent from $73.9 million to $114.4 million.

Sunbelt's rental revenue grew 17 percent to $384 million, compared to the first quarter of 2011’s $328 million, with a 13-percent increase in fleet on rent and a 4-percent improvement in yield.

Group revenue as a whole improved 21 percent in the quarter. In the U.K., A-Plant, the U.K. rental company also owned by Sunbelt parent Ashtead plc, first-quarter rental revenue grew by 6 percent to £45 million (about $71.4 million), including 7-percent growth in average fleet on rent offset by a small yield decline. Total revenue growth for the group included used equipment sales revenue of £22 million.

Sunbelt delivered a strong EBITDA margin of 42.5 percent compared with 37.3 percent for last year’s quarter resulting from the high 'drop through' of rental revenue to profit as the company continued to benefit from improved operational efficiency.

A-Plant posted rental revenue of £49.7 million (about U.S. $78.8 million), a 7.6-percent year-over-year hike.

Ashtead as a group posted record first-quarter pre-tax profits of £61m, a 76-percent increase at constant exchange rates.

"We are delighted with this record performance as we continue to benefit from the trends established in the business over a number of quarters,” said Ashtead chief executive Geoff Drabble. “The markets in which we operate have performed as anticipated with gently improving conditions in the U.S. and a more challenging outlook in the U.K. We do not anticipate any significant changes to this environment in the short term.

“Against this back-drop our continued market share gains are again reflected in our strong growth in fleet on rent and improving margins demonstrate our operational efficiency. Given the momentum established in the business, we now anticipate a full year result materially ahead of our previous expectations."

Sunbelt Rentals, based in Fort Mill, S.C., is the second largest rental company in North America.