Belfast Telegraph

Dealership driving back strongly

By John Simpson

Charles Hurst is estimated to be one of the largest motor vehicle trading groups based in Northern Ireland. The group is recovering from the impact of a significant fall in turnover of 19% in 2008 and a further 10% in 2009. More recently, turnover recovered by 10% in 2010 and by small increments in 2011and 2012 to reach an annual turnover of nearly £347m.

The changes in turnover have been reflected in operating profits. Operating profits in 2012 have recovered from a dip in 2011. However, £5.8m was still below the peak figure of nearly £10m recorded in 2007.

Net interest costs of £1.2m have meant that pre-tax profits have been lower than operating profits. The variation in interest rate costs may be linked to the changes from year to year in the balance sheet values attributed to the inventories held. Inventories peaked in 2006 (at over £81m) and then fell to £47m in 2009. Since then inventory stocks have increased year by year to nearly £65m in 2012.

The average number of employees in the group fell to 879 during 2012. This was a small reduction on the previous year and well down from the highest average of 1,092 recorded in 2007.

The group also has a trading subsidiary in the west of Scotland. In Northern Ireland the group holds the franchise rights for 16 different car makes and two motorcycle brands. It also houses six tyre outlets and an accident repair centre.

In June 2012 the company acquired the full share capital of Fleet Financial (NI).

The annual accounts confirm the degree of funding through the parent company, Lookers plc. Details of the amended facilities are outlined together with an assurance that the directors have a reasonable expectation that there will be adequate funding to continue their operations.

The balance sheet value of shareholders' funds fell from £47m at the end of 2007 to £42m a year later but has since recovered to £49m in December 2012.

Belfast Telegraph