Bridge of Allan-based Castle View Corporate Holdings optimistic despite expected full-year losses

Bridge of Allan-based Castle View Corporate Holdings (CVCH) has said it is optimistic about the easing of lockdown restrictions boosting its balance sheet as it forecast a major loss in its most recent financial year.

The business – formerly Castle View Ventures – has interests in sports centre management, weight management, and food production, and said it had some years of “substantial” pre-tax profits under its belt.

However, it is anticipating an eight-figure loss in its year just ended to March 31, “but is hopeful that the end of lockdown and the removal of restrictions on public access to sports facilities will herald a rapid return to a pre-pandemic trading climate”.

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The firm, whose interests include Cambuslang-based UIN Foods, also expressed thanks for state support since the outbreak of the pandemic.

From left: Castle View Corporate Holdings executives David Bibby, Martin Bell, and Mark Drysdale. Picture: contributed.
From left: Castle View Corporate Holdings executives David Bibby, Martin Bell, and Mark Drysdale. Picture: contributed.

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CVCH group MD Martin Bell said: “If it had not been for the financial support we have received over the past 12 months from both the UK government and many of the English local authorities to which we provide leisure management services, we would not be around today.

“Our last few years of successful trading had given us a financial cushion, which we believed would see us through almost any eventuality. Like most other businesses, we had not reckoned for the devastation a pandemic could cause, and when our income fell off a cliff in March last year, it has been the support of our clients and the UK Treasury, as well as that from our bankers, Barclays, which has kept us in business.”

In the year to 31 March 2020, CVCH recorded sales of £261 million compared to £240.15m in 2019. Following a net write-off arising from revaluation and sale of fixed-asset investments of £5.4m, including its investment in NuCana plc, a Scottish Nasdaq-quoted biotech business, pre-tax profit fell from £10.3m in 2019 to £5.3m.

CVCH’s main subsidiary, Leicestershire-headquartered Sports and Leisure Management Group, which operates around 200 leisure centres under contracts with 65 local authorities in England, saw a 9 per cent rise in turnover to £247m, in part the result of increased throughput and winning new contracts with a further two local authorities.

Hurdle

However, closure of all the group’s facilities on March 20, 2020, as part of the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, lowered its profitability in the year by 0.5 per cent to about £9.4m.

At UIN Foods, control of overheads allowed a “modest” increase in sales and gross margins, resulting in a £169,000 increase in 2019’s pre-tax profit to £192,000.

“In addition, a demerger of the group’s investment activities to a new business, Orchard Venture Capital, reduced net assets in CVCH’s ongoing trading arm from £44.39m to £28.28m.”

Mr Bell continued: “We have taken a huge hammering in the past year, but we have come through because we had a strong balance sheet as well as firm relationships which led to sustained help from the government, our local authority clients and our bank.

“We are grateful for their support and remain optimistic that we will continue to see a strong recovery bounce over the coming months, though we remain conscious of the possibility of limited, local Covid-19 related lockdowns in specific parts of the country whenever the need might arise.”

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