Belfast Telegraph

Steel manufacturer reports 52% jump in pre-tax profits as sector's recovery beds in

By Margaret Canning

A Co Down company which manufactures and distributes steel has reported a 52% jump in pre-tax profits to £6.1m.

And turnover at Castlewellan-based Walter Watson Ltd also jumped by around 25% during 2016 - from £45m to £55.3m.

Bad debts were also down, although competitive pricing was a challenge, the firm said.

However, the firm said it was hopeful that gradual recovery in the construction sector would continue.

Walter Watson Ltd also made charitable donations of £1m for communities in the areas it works.

Employee numbers also grew from 221 to 247.

The company was founded in 1975 by Walter Watson, who now runs it with his sons Derek and William. It has offices in Kildare and Ayrshire, Scotland, and describes itself as the largest family-owned structural steel fabricator on the island of Ireland.

It's been associated with major construction projects including the extension to the Waterfront Hall and major student accommodation projects at students residences in England.

The company also manufacturers overhead cranes in partnership with German giant ABUS Cranes GmbH.

In a strategic report filed with the accounts, the directors said the firm had "performed well".

It said: "These results are attributed to improved market conditions and increased operating efficiencies across all our divisions."

Forward planning had also helped, the report said.

"Planned procurement and forward-buying of raw material had a significant positive influence in what was a rising market in terms of steel price."

Market stability had also helped, along with improvements in the construction sector as a whole, the report added.

"The markets in which we operate have remained relatively stable during the rest of the year, but prices continue to be very competitive. It should also be highlighted the level of irrecoverable debt has again greatly reduced this year," it said.

"We are hopeful that the signs of recovery in the traditional construction market will continue into the new financial year.

"The group's order book remains solid, and within a range which management is comfortable with, representing approximately six months of forward production capacity," it added.

It was also investing in its core businesses and modernising its plant and machinery assets.

"The group continues to have the financial resources together with future orders from customers to manage business risks successfully, and hopefully as the economy improves, the levels of activity will increase," the report said.

Belfast Telegraph