The `mad cow’ crisis lost Powerscreen International around £4.6m in sales last year. UK farmers cut back on their business with Matbro, the group’s agricultural equipment arm.
But despite this setback, Matbro – which makes four-wheel drive telescopic handler vehicles for the agricultural and building markets – increased unit sales with UK agriculture accounting for 44% of them. Exports were up 39%.
Matbro is in the group’s materials handling division where operating profits last year soared 32% to £11.8m on sales that were up 10% at £127m.
But Powerscreen’s best margins – 20.6% and only fractionally down on the year before – were again in screening where sales ahead 12% at £122.4m produced profits up 11% at £25.5m.
Margins in crushing, where profits were up 15% at £5.63m on sales also up 15% at £48.6m, were unchanged at 11.5%. Across the group, margins were 14.2% (14%).
Group pre-tax profits were up 18% at £42.4m. John Craig, chairman, viewed the result as `pleasing’ against the background of the BSE drama, a sluggish European market, and the strong pound.
For the year, stockbroker Charterhouse Tilney forecast £49m pre-tax with 42p of earnings (36.1p), which at the going market price of 625p has the shares selling 15 times earnings.
The UK and Ireland remained the biggest market last year (sales up 7% at £117m), but the Far East showed the biggest percentage growth (up 40% to £28m) closely followed by North America (38% at £80m).