Belfast Telegraph

Company Snapshot: Charles Hurst Ltd

Motor trader gets back to speed

By John Simpson

In 2010, Charles Hurst reported a better trading year than in 2008 and 2009.

Charles Hurst is estimated to be the largest motor vehicle trading group based in Northern Ireland. However, after rapid growth in turnover in 2007, turnover fell sharply by 19% in 2008 and a further 10% in 2009. More recently, turnover recovered by 11% in 2010.

The changes in turnover have also been reflected in operating profits. Some of the fall in operating profits in 2008 was linked to exceptional charges linked with the termination of a business relationship but, after allowing for that loss, the overall operating profits in 2008 and 2009 were proportionately affected. Operating profits in 2010 have shown some recovery.

Significant net interest costs have meant that pre-tax profits have been lower than operating profits. Interest costs were, however, much lower in 2009 than in previous years and increased again slightly in 2010.

The variation in interest rate costs may partly be linked to the changes from year to year in the balance sheet values attributed to the inventories held. Inventories peaked in 2006 (at over £81m) and have since fallen to £47m in 2009 before increasing again to nearly £55m at the end of 2010.

The average number of employees in the group fell to 922 during 2010. This was a small reduction on the previous year and well down from the highest average of 1,092 recorded in 2007.

In Northern Ireland the group holds the franchise rights for 16 different car makers and two motor bicycle brands.

The annual accounts confirm the degree of funding through the parent company, Lookers plc. The balance sheet value of shareholders' funds fell from £47m at the end of 2007 to £42m a year later but has since recovered to be estimated at £45m in December 2010.