Dunnes Stores takes huge £250m dividend from its UK operation
The Dunnes Stores retail empire - which includes 17 Northern Ireland outlets - last year received a significant £250m dividend from its main company, which is based here.
New accounts filed by the business's main UK arm, Dunnes Stores (Bangor) Ltd, show that last year it paid out £250m in dividends to connected firms in the Dunnes group.
It's a major departure from recent years where the secretive family-owned company made much smaller dividend payouts of £310,000 in 2015 and £760,000 in 2014.
Confirmation of the dividend also follows a shake-up at board level at Dunnes this year, where Dr Anne Heffernan - daughter of driving force in the group Margaret Heffernan - and her cousin Sharon McMahon were appointed as directors to Dunnes companies.
Dr Heffernan and Ms McMahon join Margaret Heffernan and Frank Dunne on the board of Dunnes Stores (Bangor) Ltd.
The accounts show that the company recorded a pre-tax loss of £5.1m last year, though the main factor behind the loss was the firm writing down the value of assets by £7.5m.
The firm recorded the loss after revenues declined by 21.7% going from £127.56m to £99.85m.
However, the drop in revenues can be largely attributed to the accounts covering 47.5 weeks to December 22, 2016, compared to the prior 52 week period. The period also omits two pre-Christmas Day days and the period covering the New Year.
The Newry-registered firm's revenues are generated in the UK with Dunnes Stores operating 23 stores, including 17 here.
Numbers employed by the company last year reduced from 1,474 to 1,289 and staff costs declined from £18.47m to £15.2m. Key management personnel costs were paid £463,000.
The filings show that as a result of the company paying out the £250m dividend and the loss last year, the firm's accumulated profits reduced from £333.48m to £75.7m.
Gross profits declined by £15.67m or 46%, going down from £34.22m to £18.55m.
Profits were boosted by other income of £4.6m but this was offset by the property write down of £7.59m.
This resulted in the company recording an operating loss of £5.8m and this followed an operating profit of £11.94m in 2015.
The company's operating loss was reduced by £759,000 in finance income.
The firm last year paid corporation tax of £444,000.