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Nicholls: Profits heating up for oil company

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

The parent company has 25%-50% shareholdings in eight other fuel card businesses, including a company in Denmark and a company in France along with two in England and two in the Republic of Ireland.

The main business transactions relate to the distribution of fuel oils and the operation of fuel payment cards. The parent company has a 50% participating interest in Diesel Card International

During the most recent trading year, income from related parties included profit of £5.8m from Diesel Card Ireland, £0.9m from Diesel Card International, and £0.7m from Marine Fuels.

The turnover of the group includes the turnover of the joint ventures.

In the most recent year, turnover in the joint ventures was £315m, leaving another £315m recorded within the wholly owned businesses.

The operating profits of the wholly owned subsidiaries and the parent company recovered in 2013 to £2.5m after a fall in the previous year. Operating profits are less than 0.5% of turnover (as might be expected in this high volume business). Pre-tax profits, including the profits from the joint ventures, also improved 20% in the last year.

In the five most recent years, the group has recorded a positive cash flow on the totality of the businesses 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 and more recently an annual dividend allocation of £15,000 was recorded.

Employment in the wholly owned parent and subsidiaries has been stable and fell marginally from an average of 130 in 2011-12 to 129 people in 2012-13.

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