Belfast Telegraph

Company Snapshot: Thales Air Defence Ltd.

Rollercoaster ride for Thales' profits

By John Simpson

Thales Air Defence is an advanced engineering company, located in Castlereagh, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the French parent company of the same name.

The main activity of the company is the manufacture of missile defence systems and it describes its main products as the Starstreak missile and related equipment as well as the production of NLAW missiles and the development of a new product within its missile business area.

In neither of the last two trading years has the company paid a dividend to its parent company, although in earlier years there were significant payments.

Annual turnover peaked at £109m in 2000 and has since tended to fall reaching £73m in 2006. Then in 2007 it increased to over £96m and more recently has fallen again. In 2010, turnover recovered again to £91m, near to the levels 2007.

Until 2008, the company had consistently reported stable operating profits which in 2008 rose to over 10% of turnover. In the last two years the trading results have been much less favourable. Operating profits have become losses of over £8m each year.

Pre-tax profits in 2009 and 2010 have shown even larger losses as the company has faced significant annual interest costs which have been partly offset by a transfer of a tax credit in each year. In recent years average employment has risen slightly from 510 people in 2007 to 522 in 2008, 583 in 2009 and 603 in 2010.

The defined benefit pension fund is carrying an estimated actuarial deficit which in December 2010, whilst holding assets valued at nearly £70m, was showing a gross funding deficit of over £10m.

As part of the annual profit and loss account, this company has been making an annual payment of a management fee of £1.8m to the parent company.