Belfast Telegraph

Company Report

Charles Hurst Group

By John Simpson

The Charles Hurst Group is the largest local subsidiary of the Lookers plc group which owns a number of subsidiary companies in Northern Ireland involved in the motor trade.

Formally the main local trading company links to Lookers through Charles Hurst Holdings Ltd. Charles Hurst is led in Northern Ireland by operations director Colin McNab.

The comparison, year on year, of the trading results in 2016 has been affected by the sale by Hursts, within the Lookers group, of the subsidiary company Taggarts Motor Company in Scotland.

This change affects the trading results, profits and employment figures. The sale resulted in a reduction in the book value of investments by Hursts of £5.8m.

After several years of increasing turnover in 2016 turnover in this business at £456m was 10% lower than in 2015.

However, Charles Hurst remains one of the largest, if not the largest, local vehicle distribution business.

Operating profits improved by 8% to reach just under £8.9m. When adjusted for the net interest costs of funding, pre-tax profits also increased by 8%.

Operating profits were over 1.9% of turnover which is a return close to the recent peak level of 2% in 2014. The level of inventories carried in the balance sheet rose from £61m at the end of 2011 to nearly £99m in December 2015 - an increase of 62%, slightly more than the increase in turnover.

However, at the end of 2016 the value of inventories had reduced to under £74m.

The average number of employees in the group has reduced to 870 from 1,014 a year earlier.

Part of the change may be attributable to the sale of Taggarts.

Each year the group has made dividend payments to the parent company. In 2016 dividends at £2.86m were slightly lower than in 2015 and significantly lower than the £3.36m awarded in 2014.

Belfast Telegraph

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