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Company Report: Haldane Shiells Group

Haldane Shiells Group, which includes Haldane Fisher and several other subsidiaries, has business outlets in a number of locations across Northern Ireland and also in the Republic of Ireland, England and the Isle of Man.

The larger business units may be in Belfast and Newry. The diverse range of interests includes importing and machining of timber and the provision of building and plumbing materials.

As with other businesses linked to supplies to the building industry, this group has been trading for the last five years in an increasingly competitive market where turnover has decreased. The high point for turnover was in 2007 when it reached £102m. Turnover decreased sharply in 2008 and 2009 and since then has fallen, but more slowly, to £68m in 2012.

Operating and pre-tax profits also peaked in 2007. They fell sharply in the years to 2010 when operating profits were £0.7m. Since then operating profits have improved to reach £1.3m in 2012, although they are still well below the £4.8m of five years ago. Pre-tax profits have changed roughly in parallel to the operating profit results.

Bank borrowing by the group has fallen at the end of 2012 to under £6m. This contrasts with nearly £14m in 2007.

The directors report that their research points to market conditions in 2013 which will remain very demanding. They comment that, since one third of the branch network is outside Ireland, the group is well spread geographically and is sheltered in part from the more serious difficulties in the Irish construction sector.

The group expects trading conditions to be stronger in the second half of 2013 and says it will continue to seek new business opportunities through acquisition and organic growth: "The group is strategically well placed to exploit selected opportunities for expansion and growth."

Employment in the group has been relatively stable in recent years and with an average of 437 employees in 2012, was only fractionally lower than in 2011.

The balance sheet value of shareholders' funds peaked at the end of 2009 at £25.2m. It fell in 2010 to £23.7m and has more recently recovered to £24.3m.

Belfast Telegraph