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Pre-tax profits at Northern Ireland horticulture firm down 30% after acquisition costs

By Michael Sheils McNamee

Co Tyrone company Westland Horticulture has boosted employment, even though pre-tax profits are down 30% to £4.1m, according to its latest accounts.

Westland Horticulture in Dungannon has become one of the UK's leading horticultural suppliers in the quarter of a century since its foundation.

Between 2015 and 2016, staff numbers increased from 426 to 590, a reversal of the trend between 2014 and 2015 when numbers fell from 475 down to 426.

Alongside a growth in staff numbers, the company, under chief executive Edward Conroy, recorded a pre-tax profit of £4.1m in the 12-month period to the end of August last year, with its after-tax profits coming to £2.9m. The company recorded an eight-month accounting period to the end of August 2015, with pre-tax profits at £5.9m.

The 12-month figures up to the end of August last year also show a turnover of £127.7m, up 32% on £96.6m for the eight-month period the year before.

But gross profits were hit by exceptional items including £768,000 in a bad-debt write-off, and nearly £2.4m of integration costs following its acquisition of the trade and assets of English company William Sinclair plc in July 2015.

Westland sells products such as lawn treatments, plant food, pest control, weed killers and bird seeds under the brands Unwins, Peckish, Nature's Feast and Bucktons.

Economist John Simpson said: "Westland Horticulture is a big player in the gardening and horticulture scene. The results now registered reflect a less successful year to the end of August 2016. Corrected to an annual rate, business turnover of £127.7m has fallen and pre-tax profits, at £4.1m, are well down on the previous trading period."

The company has undergone a period of rapid growth over the last few years, with acquisitions of and expansion into Europe through the Seramis brand in Germany.

In July 2015, a £9.6m expansion in Co Tyrone saw the company investing in new machinery and creating 70 new jobs.

In its accounts the company describes its own performance as "satisfactory". But the directors note that there was potential to grow "as new lines are introduced to the growing media and fertilizer markets".

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