Belfast Telegraph

Company Snapshot: Mount Charles Group Ltd.

Catering for a brighter future

By John Simpson

Mount Charles Group is currently one of Northern Ireland's largest registered businesses specialising in the provision of catering facilities.

The company is itself a subsidiary of Corporate Catering Ltd which has a majority shareholding of 51% in Mount Charles.

Mount Charles Group, from 2007, has enjoyed four years of increasing turnover followed by a small decrease in 2011.

The directors' report emphasises that adding to shareholder value in the company is dependent on increasing the company's market share through new business unit contracts.

The results for the year ending in September 2011 are described as satisfactory. This is attributed, partially, to improved buying, better inventory management and savings on overhead costs in a highly-competitive sector.

The expectation is that the recent level of turnover will be sustained and this links to aspirations that the current year will see further good progress.

Following the peak performance in 2010 and a small fall in turnover in 2011, operating profits, which had doubled from 2007 to 2010, fell in 2011.

This pattern of improved operating profits that was followed by a dip in 2011 was also reflected in pre-tax profits.

In 2011, pre-tax results showed a net loss which was significantly affected by one-off costs of £1.5m for pension contributions and other professional fees.

Average employment in the company, at 789 people, has remained high, although lower in 2011 (down from 955 people, or by 17%) than in 2010.

The company recognises that one of the risks and uncertainties it faces is the need to recruit and retain people with the right experience and skills.

In support of the retention of staff, it has introduced a learning programme for all employees and has implemented reward schemes linked to results, designed to retain key people.

Because post-tax profits or losses are largely retained in shareholders' funds, the balance sheet showed a year-end decrease of 6%, although, at £2.6m, they were a multiple of the balance sheet value in earlier years.

Dividends to shareholders amounted to £48,000 in 2011 compared to £96,000 in 2010.

During 2011, the company invested £1.5m in setting up a new marketing subsidiary.