Ultimate Leisure, the Newcastle based bar and nightclub operator, has plans to expand its new nightclub concept Beach to more sites across the North-East following the success of its first site in Sunderland.

The company has plans to open further sites in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, Rotherham, Belfast and Nottingham.

The news of its expansion came as the company reported a 24% rise in half-year pre-tax profits to £2.6m, compared with £2.1m in the same period last year.

Sales from the company's 23 late night bars and clubs rose by 25% in the period to £10.4m, against £8.3m. The results were described by finance director Craig Bell as "growth, but in a controlled way".In the six months to December 2001 the company revealed that 80% of its sales were wet-led, 5% were from food, 4% from accommodation and 11% from door takings.

The company said: "With a strong pipeline of selectively acquired sites, coupled with a robust performance from our existing estate, we have every reason to be excited about our prospects for the coming year."

Ultimate confirmed that it had the infrastructure in place to continue its spread across the north of the country, with several venues currently being assessed for possible purchase.

The company denied that it had plans to open any sites in London, although Senior admitted that he would like a flagship London property.

The company is also preparing for the expected relaxation in licensing hours, with later opening being the norm in its newer outlets.