SHOPFITTER Havelock Europa is poised to starting paying dividends for the first time in six years after an upturn in work for clients in the banking sector helped it return to the black.
The Fife-based firm, which has offloaded non-core parts of its business to focus on the retail and education markets, also revealed a sharp reduction in debt after selling a Hertfordshire property occupied by former subsidiary Showcard Print.
Havelock posted a pre-tax profit from continuing operations of £600,000 for 2013, a turnaround from the previous year’s £500,000 loss and its first underlying profit since 2008.
Analysts at house broker Oriel Securities said that, with net debt having fallen from £2.4 million to just £300,000, the firm could resume dividend payments next year. Havelock shareholders have gone without payouts since the firm slumped into the red following an “exceedingly challenging year” in 2009, when it was hit by costs linked to the integration of its ESA McIntosh education interiors unit.
Chief executive Eric Prescott told The Scotsman that the firm had benefited from the improving economic outlook, which is encouraging customers to invest in their high street premises.
He added: “We’ve also won a fairly substantial order with a major Australian retailer, and we’re a busy as we’ve ever been in bidding for education work.”
Although the firm has been busy fitting out branches for the likes of Lloyds Banking Group and its TSB offshoot, lower levels of activity in the education sector during 2013 saw group revenues dip 3 per cent to £89.6m.
Prescott said that Havelock, which employs the bulk of its 500-strong workforce in Dalgety Bay and Kirkcaldy in Fife, was concerned about the uncertainties created by September’s independence referendum.
He said: “Any uncertainty on currency, interest rates and the regulatory environment is not good. We’re a big local employer and want to continue to grow the business without disruption, but the question marks remain.”
Shares in the company ended the day up 1.25p, or 5.7 per cent, at 23.25p.