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Friday, 31 October 2014

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H&H Group optimistic as profits grow by 48 per cent

H&H Group says that it is poised to grow as the economy recovers.

Brian Richardson  photo
H&H chief executive Brian Richardson

The Carlisle-based auctioneering to property and printing business this week reported a sharp rise in half-year profits.

It made £822,000 before tax in the six months to December, up 48.4 per cent from £554,000 in the same period of 2012-13.

Turnover was 4.1 per cent higher at £7.37m while the interim dividend is unchanged at 8.0p. It will be paid on May 2 to shareholders on the register on April 11.

Chief executive Brian Richardson said: “It has been a good start to the financial year with all of our four sectors, auctioneering, property, financial services and printing seeing an improvement on the year before.

“Undoubtedly, we have seen some improvement and return of confidence in the wider economy.

“When times are tough you tend to focus on efficiencies and reap the benefit of that when things return to normal.

“We are looking at 2013-14 being a better year than last year but we are aware that there’s a degree of fragility in people’s confidence to spend money.

“We are certainly expecting a reasonable second half but it’s difficult to predict from month to month.”

He said that Harrison & Hetherington, H&H’s livestock auctioneering business, had put in a “very strong performance” despite lower livestock prices, which depress commission. Throughput was unchanged at £65m.

Mr Richardson added: “The rural economy has benefited from the milder weather this winter, which hasn’t been as severe. We haven’t had the problems with weather that we had 12 months ago.”

H&H Group is best known for its Borderway Auction Mart at Rosehill, Carlisle, which is recognised as one of the leading livestock auction centres in the UK.

Its other businesses include land agency H&H Land and Property; H&H King Estate Agents; H&H Borderway Finance; H&H Insurance Brokers and the printing business H&H Reeds.

The estate agency saw the highest level of transactions for five years as the housing marketing recovered.

But the biggest turnaround was at H&H Reeds, which returned to profit.

Mr Richardson said: “Last year was a very difficult year to be in printing. As a business, it’s as near a barometer of the economy as you can get.

“We’ve had a good last seven months [in printing]. There’s been good growth in work from the tourism sector.”

H&H Insurance Brokers, which had been focused on farming clients, is expanding into new markets following the purchase of John Pieri Insurance Services of Brampton 12 months ago.

Overall, H&H Group employs 295 staff, up from 289 at the last year end.

The private company has around 1,000 shareholders who can trade their shares at quarterly auctions.

The average share price over the half-year was £25.80, down from £26.32 in the same period last year.

H&H says there continues to be “substantial demand” for its shares from existing shareholders and new purchasers.

Michael Cowen took over as chairman from Alan Bowe at the annual general meeting in November.

He said: “The last six months have seen a tremendous amount of work from all the H&H staff to support the development of the group and deliver an improved performance.

“I thank all the staff for their hard work and commitment.”

H&H’s most recent full-year results, reported in October, saw pre-tax profits dip 29.7 per cent from £1.44m in 2011-12. The decline came despite a 1.5 per cent increase in turnover to £14.35m.

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