Havelock Europa 'stabilising' as it targets work in London and abroad

WORK in London and foreign markets helped school and shop-fitting group Havelock Europa "stabilise" last year after being hit hard by the recession and government cutbacks.

The Dalgety Bay-based company yesterday reported that it returned to profit at an operating level in 2010, although exceptionals pushed it to a pre-tax loss of 4.6 million.

Chief executive Eric Prescott said it had been a year of transition in which losses were substantially reduced.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He said the firm was now experiencing the benefits of cost-cutting measures implemented over the past two years, including the merger of its retail interiors manufacturing operations and its educational interiors arm.

"Although we took some pain we're now reaping the benefits," he said. "We've got the factory in one place, in Kirkcaldy, and it's absolutely flying. We're currently working overtime."

He said the firm had also made savings with better transport logistics and was now strengthening its sales department.

Prescott said most UK private sector work was concentrated inside the M25.

"At the moment it's quite London centric," he said. "I'd love there to be more work in Scotland but the market is in London and we're chasing it."

The company is also targeting overseas growth, with recent contract wins in China, Hong Kong and Germany.

Prescott said foreign markets were "an important and growing part" of Havelock's business.

"Those markets can be counter-cyclical to ours and that's really important to maintain quality of earnings," he added.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The company's work in schools continues throughout the UK. Prescott said it had three years' of work in the pipeline and the Scottish Futures Trust provided further opportunities. Cutbacks by retailers during the recession pushed Havelock into the red in 2009. Yesterday's results showed that revenue fell by 9 per cent in 2010, to 99.2m, but the group made an operating profit before exceptional items of 600,000, compared to a 1.2m loss the year before.

The firm is not proposing to pay a dividend until it has returned to profitability and reduced its 19.7m debt pile.

Havelock had a shake up of its board last year and the process is set to continue. Yesterday it announced that executive director Richard Lowery would be retiring at the end of the month, while chairman Malcolm Gourlay would step down from the board in 2012.

In recent months, Havelock Europa has been at the centre of a stock market mystery as an investor named Andrew Burgess has built an increasingly large stake in the company. In ten steps since February, he has moved from owning less than 4 per cent of the total shares to more than 13 per cent.

Prescott said: "It's the mysterious Andrew Burgess. He's not spoken to us yet, we don't know why he's built a stake. We are as intrigued as you are."