Henry Boot upbeat despite a dip in profits

John Sutcliffe, chief executive of Henry Boot
John Sutcliffe, chief executive of Henry Boot
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Revenues and profits at construction firm Henry Boot both dipped during 2018 following its best ever year in the previous 12 months.

Revenue stood at £397.1m, down from 2017’s £408.5m while profit before tax was £48.6m, compared to 2017’s £55.4m.

Earnings per share fell to 28.3p and the firm’s net debt declined to £18.4m. But it was still the firm’s second-based annual results throughout its 133-year history, it said.

The Sheffield-based group has three divisions - land promotion, property investment and development, and construction.

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, chief executive John Sutcliffe said: “Last year we benefitted from the sales of 164 apartments at the former Terry’s Chocolate Factory.

“We had anticipated the flats would be sold over a three-year period but we sold them all by the end of 2017, which brought profit forward from 2018.”

He added: “We continue to take a long-term strategic approach to land promotion and property development while at the same time focusing on the delivery of the existing pipeline which should enable us to produce good results for the years ahead.”

In 2018, Hallam Land, sold over 3,500 units on 24 sites.

Challenges included not being able to progress certain schemes as quickly as it had originally anticipated.

However, chairman Jamie Boot said: “This was due to a combination of planning delays and the higher levels of due diligence that now accompany real estate transactions.”

Mr Sutcliffe said the group had a good start to 2019 and that the year will see the completion of significant schemes across its strategic land, property investment and development, housebuilding and construction businesses.

“If it wasn’t for all the talk on the television and newspapers about Brexit, we wouldn’t know it was happening in our business.

“We are not running our business thinking about Brexit.

“Clearly we need to know what the ultimate outcome will be but at this stage everything is fine.”

He added: “Out there in the market place there is a bit of uncertainty but we are not feeling it too much at the moment.

“We are as prepared as we can be. In the construction business we have been making sure we have enough supplies of stock.

“We don’t see labour shortage being an issue in the north as much as the south. We are a UK-focused business so any Brexit impact will be secondary.”

The firm had to make a one-off unexpected pension scheme provision of £1.5m in relation to Guaranteed Minimum Pensions within the year.

Analysts at WHIreland hailed the results saying: “Results this morning from BOOT are just ahead of the expectations raised in May ’18, reflecting the consistent quality of this business, a market leader in land development across the UK which also brings forward sites which it may retain for a longer period.”