Fuel forecourt and service station operator Applegreen has announced a gross profit of €282.3 million for 2018 – up more than 55% year-on-year.

It comes as revenues broke the €2 billion mark – a rise of 41% year-on-year – thanks to a significant expansion in its UK and US businesses.

However CEO Bob Etchingham said the firm also enjoyed strong like-for-like sales over the 12 months.

"We enjoyed very healthy like-for-like growth," he said. "We had something like 5.7% growth in fuel and 3.3% growth in non-fuel revenue – they're very healthy numbers for a retail business."

Last year Applegreen bought a majority stake in British service station firm Welcome Break for more than €360m.

That brought 24 motorway service areas, two trunk road service areas and 29 hotels across the UK into its portfolio – signalling a significant leap in its British business.

Mr Etchingham recognises the potential risks in such a big gamble on the UK market at this time, however he is confident that the move was the right one to make.

"It's an infrastructure asset – we're investing for the long term in the UK," he said. "We're going to have to trade through the cycle – there will be good years and bad years in the UK economy.

"I think the UK consumer is generally in a good place, wage growth is outstripping inflation so household budgets are in good shape."

Mr Etchingham accepts that there is increased nervousness in the British economy at the moment – something that is likely to continue as Brexit comes to a head.

"It's fair to say the British consumer, this year especially, may be less prone to spend then he might otherwise be, but we see this as a business that is relatively stable," he said. "It's going to continue to perform well, we've seen some slight signs of softness but nothing significant and nothing that concerns about the business."

Whatever about the merits of the acquisition, it did have a significant impact on its balance sheet – with net debt rising from around €10m last year to almost €507m by the end of 2018.

Mr Etchingham said its debt levels have been raised – though he feels they are still in a comfortable space and moving in the right direction.

"We ended the year with Applegreen's debt at 2.2 times [EBITDA] and group debt at 3.9 times net debt to EBITDA, which are elevated numbers but not a particular concern," he said. "The analysts who look at our business are predicting that, by the end of next year, the Applegreen debt will be down to one times and the group debt, which consolidates Welcome Break, will be at 2.5 times net debt to EBITDA – and they are comfortable numbers and figures that we are happy with."

In its results Applegreen also said it was giving particular focus to Welcome Break's hotel business and was starting a review into its future.

When asked whether this was about potentially expanding or offloading that segment of the business, Mr Etchingham said they were open to all potential outcomes.

"We're not making any predictions at the moment," he said. "The review is starting at this stage and will continue, probably for most of this year and we'll let market know what our conclusion is towards the end of the year."

, and almost doubled its portfolio of stations in the US.