Scottish cake company Lightbody of Hamilton is to build a £2m factory in the Czech Republic and launch joint ventures in Asia and America, in a global expansion.

Managing director Martin Lightbody told British Baker Lightbody has supplied overseas markets including France, Italy and Spain over the last couple of years from its state-of-the-art bakery in Hamilton, Scotland. Sales volumes now justify opening manufacturing premises to serve European markets, Mr Lightbody said.

Construction of a new 100,000sq ft factory in the Czech Republic will begin at the end of next month, and the building is set to complete by the end of the year. The new premises will employ 200 staff, and will be expanded further as European sales increase.

Lightbody is also about to launch a joint venture in Shanghai, China, to supply Asian markets. It already supplies some licensed products to these markets. Manufacturing premises in China will employ 5,000 staff, including brand and development staff sent over from Scotland. And management is also seeking a joint venture partner in the Americas to set up a similar operation there.

The expansion plans come on the back of rapid growth in the UK business. Mr Lightbody revealed that the firm’s sales grew by more than a quarter last year and profits tripled in the year to April 2005.

Turnover at the fourth-generation family-owned company was £36.7 million in the year to April 30, 2005, with profits before tax rising to just over £2m, almost triple the £732,517 recorded in the previous year, according to figures filed at Companies House.

Holding company Light-body Group recorded turnover of £38.2m for the year to April 2005, an increase of around £10m for the previous year, with pre-tax profits of £1.3m, compared with a loss of £262,000 the year before. Mr Lightbody said: “We have expanded at 20% a year since 1995, and we will continue at that level, or higher if Asia goes well.”

The company also plans to expand its “portfolio of celebration products”, diversifying from the current offer of large cakes and smaller everyday and dietary products. The first new product in this range, a Disney branded children’s apple-based party fizz drink, is already on trial in Carrefour stores in continental Europe.