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Company Snapshot: Nicholls' (Fuel Oils) Ltd.

Fuel supplier keeps tight margins

By John Simpson

Published 20/03/2012

Nicholls' (Fuel Oils) is a large fuel distributor headquartered in Greysteel, Co Londonderry. The company is also the parent for a number of other trading companies as well as holding a 50% joint venture interest in several others.

The parent company has 25% shareholdings in seven other businesses, including a company in Denmark and a company in France. The main business transactions relate to fuel distribution and the operation of fuel payment cards.

The parent company has a 50% participating interest in UK registered Diesel Card International which, at the end of the trading year, became a subsidiary of Diesel Card Ireland. Nicholls' holds a 50% shareholding in Diesel Card Ireland.

During the most recent trading year, income from related parties included £16.4m from Diesel Card International, £3.9m from Diesel Card Ireland, £5.4m from McAteer Fuels and £4.9m from Fuelplus (UK).

In the most recent year, turnover in the joint ventures was £256m, leaving £287m recorded within the wholly-owned businesses.

The operating profits of the wholly owned subsidiaries and the parent company fell slightly to £2m in 2011. Operating profits remained at less than 1% of turnover. Pre-tax profits, including the profits from the joint ventures, have also remained at a tight margin on turnover of just under 1%.

In the three most recent years, the group recorded a positive cash flow in contrast to the modest cash flow deficits noted in the early years of the last decade.

In 2008-9 dividends of £75,000 were paid to the shareholders. In 2009-10, unusually, a larger dividend of £1.4m was payable. In 2010-11, the dividend allocation was £15,000.

Employment in the parent and subsidiaries has been stable and rose from an average of 83 in 2008-9 to 91 in 2010-11.

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