Healthcare entrepreneur David Moulsdale is eyeing a return to profit at his Optical Express empire this year – despite latest figures revealing it has continued to rack up heavy losses.
The costs involved in closing a number of underperforming stores contributed to pre-tax losses at the company behind his retail business, DCM (Optical Holdings), more than doubling to £15.4 million in the year to 27 December 2014 as sales dropped by more than £9m to £134m.
In the report to the accounts, the Cumbernauld-based company also said that continuing challenging trading conditions meant the business was likely to have made an increased loss for 2015.
But DCM added that, with current growth trends and trading, it was likely to return to profit in 2016.
The latest losses came after the company booked £4.4m in exceptional costs during the year, mostly related to store closures.
DCM said trading conditions had remained challenging in 2014, but that it had continued its investment programme with new surgery centres for laser vision correction, refractive consultation centres and optical stores.
“At the same time the directors reviewed all trading locations where the leases were approaching a break option or end of lease and either renewed on more favourable terms or closed the store where the location was not optimal for future trading and profitability,” it said.
During the year the company also disposed of its dental clinics, and following the financial year end a subsidiary of the company, Bridgewater Hospital (Manchester), was placed into liquidation after making heavy losses.
Last October it was revealed that six directors, including Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale, had stepped down from DCM. Frank Blin, former head of PwC in Scotland, was also among those leaving the board.
The average number of staff employed by the group fell to 1,357 from 1,522 in 2013. The highest paid director – presumed to be Moulsdale – saw his pay package virtually unchanged at £500,000.
The group continues to be in a long-running dispute with HM Revenue & Customs over a number of VAT issues. It is expected that a hearing will take place at the Tax Tribunal in Edinburgh in the third quarter of this year.
Moulsdale set up the company in 1991 with a single shop in Edinburgh, after which it grew via takeovers of provincial chains and expanded into laser eye surgery, dentistry and cosmetic surgery.
In 2013, he made a significant cash injection into the company after bankers refused a request for further loans.
As well as its operations in the UK, Optical Express has interests in the US, Croatia, Ireland and Germany. It claims to be the UK market leader in laser eye surgery.