Caffe Nero, the independent coffee chain, reported a 4.7% rise in underlying profits for the year to 31 May 2012, and a 2.7% increase in like-for-like sales during 12 months in which it opened 51 new stores.

The company, which is led by founder Gerry Ford, made EBITDA of £31.5m during the year, while revenue climbed 11.5% to £184.6m. Pre-tax profit rose 10.4% from £17.3m to £19.1m.

The company, which had 480 stores operating in 232 UK towns and cities at the year end, saw gross profit rise by 7% to £44.4m. Operating profit increased by 10.4% to £19.1m, while operating profit margin fell slightly to 10.4% from 10.5% in 2011.

Both store and EBITDA margin decreased during the year. Store margin fell from 25.1% to 24.1%, while EBITDA margin decreased from 18.2% to 17.1%. It closed six sites during the year.

The company said that it believed there was potential in the UK market for at least 700 Caffe Nero stores, 100 more than it has previously stated, and that it would continue the “rapid roll out of the Caffe Nero concept around the country”. It expects to open a further 50 stores in its current financial year.

It said that it was able to grow EBITDA due to the “continued expansion of stores, maturity of younger existing stores and careful cost management in the business”.

In June, the group, which currently operates a c560-strong estate in total, announced it was to undertake an overseas expansion drive after taking a majority stake in Poland-based operator Green Coffee and appointing Helen Jones, the then managing director of Zizzi, as its new group executive director.

The company opened the first site as part of the joint venture in Union Square, Warsaw, under new brand ‘Green Caffè Nero’. It is thought that Caffè Nero believes there is the capability to eventually match rival Whitbread’s c100-strong estate in the country.

Green Coffee founder Adam Ringer is overseeing the venture, which will initially see his group’s current nine sites in Poland rebranded under the new format.

Caffe Nero expanded into Turkey in 2007 and the Middle East in 2009.