Albemarle & Bond has announced it will continue its store expansion plans after its latest accounts showed it has nearly doubled its pre-tax profits over the past four years.

The pawnbroker today reported profits for the year of £9.7m, compared with £5m four years ago in 2004. Profits increased 28% since last year, from £7m, and it is paying a 6.5p a share dividend.

‘Market conditions for our core pawn-broking business remain favourable despite the wider economic downturn,’ said chairman Charles Nicholson.

‘We have benefited from an increase in customers who are no longer able to raise finance from mainstream lenders, and also from higher gold prices enabling us to securely raise lending levels consequently improving our level of return on individual transactions.’

At the start of the year Albemarle & Bond bought Herbert Brown, the UK’s third largest pawn-broking business, which increased its portfolio of stores from 86 to 111.

Nicholson said the company would focus on ‘organic growth across the store portfolio, further integration of the Herbert Brown business, and pursuing opportunities to exploit new markets through new branch openings.

Albemarle’s shares opened at 204p this morning compared with a year high of 240p and a year low of 150p.