The rebuilding programme is on track, says 1st Dental

DENTAL products firm 1st Dental yesterday told shareholders its turnaround is on track.

The Harrogate-based firm, which supplies dentists with bridges and crowns, is trying to rebuild after two years of poor performance following its acquisition of Benchmark in 2005.

The acquisition, coupled with government-imposed changes to the dental sector and the loss of key management, has seen it report two years of declining sales and losses.

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It had to take a 3.25m goodwill impairment last year on laboratories associated with Benchmark, driving it to a 4.1m loss in the year to the end of November.

When it revealed the loss last month, chairman Grahame Sewell told shareholders the board's priority was to "manage a turnaround which can be sustainable and is not just a quick fix".

At the time, he said: "We are driving a turnaround strategy.

"We are managing cultural change throughout the group's trading operations.

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"The group's key objective is to re-build shareholder trust."

Yesterday Mr Sewell said this turnaround "remains on course" and trading is in line with management's expectations.

He said the group is focused on increasing efficiency, through better customer service and choice, as well as improving productivity in its laboratories.

"The objective is to be able to report a trading profit in this financial year," said Mr Sewell, adding he expects to meet this target.

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In the half year to May 31, 1st Dental expects a small pre-tax profit.

Its second half is traditionally stronger.

All resolutions were passed at the firm's annual shareholder meeting in Harrogate yester- day.

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