Belfast Telegraph

Company Snapshot: W&R Barnett Ltd

By John Simpson

W & R Barnett is Northern Ireland’s largest international grain trader. The company also trades in derivatives and oils, owns and operates dockside facilities, manufactures animal feeds and also specialises in horse breeding.

Until April 2009, the company also owned a specialist provider of information technology services.

This group of companies forms a critical link in the supply chain to support the farming community through the sale of animal feed.

Annual turnover in this group, including consolidated results from subsidiaries, has risen steadily since 2006 from £89m that year to £142m in the year to March 2009.

Operating profits have increased year on year since 2005. Last year, operating profits at £7m were more than double the figures recorded in 2004-5. The group has also held sufficient funds to avoid any large borrowing.

Indeed, each year, pre-tax profits have been boosted by returns on investments which in 2008-9 earned just over £3.5m.

The group is linked to other trading units in the animal feedstuffs sector.

It holds a 50% shareholding in James Allen & Co, North West Silos, West Twin Silos and BHH Ltd. A major part of W&R Barnett’s turnover is achieved through sales to these associated or related units.

In 2008-9, these sales were valued at nearly £98m.

In common with many other businesses in recent years, the accounts report the impact of unrealised gains or losses on the holdings of investments, often in the form of property revaluation.

In 2007-8, the group added an unrealised gain of £7m to the value of its investments.

Then in 2008-9, the impact was a deficit of £15m to deduct from the investment surplus.

The company maintains defined benefit pension schemes for certain employees. At the end of March 2009, the combined schemes were showing a small actuarial liability of just over £1.2m. This represented a small increase in the balance sheet pension funds deficit from a net surplus of nearly £0.5m a year earlier.

Employment in the group has risen in the last five years from an average of 211 people in 2003-4 to 312 in 2008-9.

The scale of dividends paid out of post-tax profits has meant that the company has enjoyed increasing reserves but in 2008-9, the adjustments to the profit and loss accounts meant the balance sheet value of shareholders funds fell fractionally.

Belfast Telegraph