Commercial vehicle group Ballyvesey Holdings posts a pre-tax profit of £4.4m
One of Northern Ireland's largest logistics and commercial vehicle companies recorded pre-tax profits of £4.4m last year.
New accounts for Ballyvesey Holdings also show the group's turnover recovering to £620m for the year to September 30, 2018, after slipping back to £609.6m in 2017.
Ballyvesey is now headquartered in Doncaster, but it's still controlled by shareholders here in the Montgomery family.
Although holding at its 2017 level, pre-tax profits were still £2.5m down on Ballyvesey's 2016 performance of £6.9m.
However, the recovery in its turnover to £620m for 2018 left Ballyvesey Holdings with a gross margin of 14.2% for the year, an improvement on the 13.2% it recorded in 2016.
The company employs 2,528 people across a large portfolio of business interests, ranging from transport and logistics, vehicle distribution and trailer manufacturing.
Firms under its control include Montgomery Transport, East-West Transport and JE Coulter.
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But its wide reach includes DAF, Fiat, Mercedes and Scania truck franchises as well as plant dealerships for Atlas, Bobcat, Dooan, Genie, Mecalec, Sany and Terex.
It also operates four large rental fleets in England, and during the latest reporting period the company acquired Falcon Self Drive.
The Somerset firm was bought in its entirety for £5.6m cash on October 4, 2017.
More recent acquisitions included Morrey Oils Ltd, a £16.5m a year business based in Chester, which specialises in fuel and bitumen deliveries.
Ballyvesey paid £4.35m in cash for 100% of the company on February 28, 2018.
The group operates three Montracon trailer manufacturing sites in Newtownabbey, Doncaster and Market Weighton.
The company said it had invested heavily in new production equipment and systems in recent years.
"We expect to see the benefits of this in the coming years," said the strategic report from its directors.
"This investment will continue into the coming financial year."
The group's assets also include a large portfolio of commercial property across the UK, Ireland and Europe.
In total, Ballyvesey Holdings includes just over 50 subsidiary companies, with 20 of those based here.
Shareholders' funds increased by 3% to £118.5m during the year, with the directors agreeing to pay a dividend of £242,354.
The continued diversification of the Ballyvesey Holdings' portfolio comes amid major challenges in the logistics and haulage industry, the firm's original core business.
Seamus Leheny, policy manager for the Freight Transport Association in Northern Ireland, said the industry is facing a national shortage of drivers.
"Many operators face challenges in recruiting new drivers while simultaneously working to retain their current drivers," he said.
"Fuel continues to be the single biggest cost of operating commercial goods vehicles with fuel representing around 30% of total operating costs for a truck."
Mr Leheny was this week recruited by the Department for Exiting the EU to become a member of its Business and Trade Union Alternative Arrangements Advisory Group.
He said: "Brexit continues to challenge logistics businesses and because it actually hasn't happened yet or what that outcome will be. We don't know the true cost yet.
"However, many operators are looking at utilising additional warehouse space and employing extra staff to manage the additional red tape in the event of a 'no deal' Brexit - more unwelcome costs for the industry."