Hargreaves hikes dividend after challenging year

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Energy and waste group Hargreaves Services, which recently bought the assets of Scottish Coal, is to lift its annual dividend by more than 15 per cent following a “challenging and rewarding” year.

The firm was hit by fraud at its Belgian business and the closure of its Maltby colliery in South Yorkshire, but underlying pre-tax profits from continuing operations rose 5.9 per cent to £52.2 million in the year to 31 May.

As well as the £8.4m Scottish Coal deal in July, Hargreaves bought Aardvark, the trading arm of collapsed miner ATH Resources, for £10.4m in May.

Hargreaves chairman Tim Ross said: “Whilst there remain challenges ahead, particularly due to the uncertain economic climate and its knock-on effects on the major coal users in the power generation and steel sectors, we believe that the group’s resilience leaves it well positioned to deal with any further market volatility.

“The UK business, strengthened by the recent surface mining investments, provides a sound platform to look selectively at additional expansion opportunities. Recent trading in the UK has been encouraging and we remain confident of achieving expectations for further growth in the current financial year.”

The board proposed a final dividend of 13.6p a share, up from 11.8p a year ago, lifting the total payout by 15.2 per cent to 20.5p.