Company Report: Charles Hurst
Charles Hurst Ltd is the largest local subsidiary of the Lookers plc group. It includes a number of subsidiaries in Northern Ireland, including financing companies, involved in the motor trade. Formally the local company is linked to Lookers through Charles Hurst Holdings Ltd.
Operating profits improved by 2% to just over £8.3m. This was a small recovery from 2017. Operating profits, affected by changes in the organisation, proved variable in 2016 when they peaked at £8.9m. Pre-tax profits in 2018 recorded a further small fall to reach £6.6m compared to just over £7.0m a year earlier. Net interest charges on borrowed funds rose from £1.2m in 2017 to £1.7m more recently. Operating profits were under 1.3% of turnover which is lower than the 2014 peak of 2.1%.
Inventories carried in the balance sheet rose from £110m at the end of 2017 to nearly £127m in December 2018: an increase of 15%, less than the proportionate increase in turnover. The average number of employees increased to 951 from 853 a year earlier.
Each year Charles Hurst Group has made dividend payments to the parent company. In 2018 dividends at £2.87m were slightly higher than the £2.8m paid in 2017. The directors' report refers to a medium-term plan to further establish the company in the local marketplace, and to uncertainty caused by "the political environment, Brexit and (what were then) weaker exchange rates". The report says the directors look forward with a degree of caution and continue to plan prudently.
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