Ed’s view: The sums behind the income

It seems to be the time of year where many catering equipment distributors and manufacturers are releasing their financial reports – and these give a pretty accurate picture of where each business stands, thanks to the UK government’s open policy on Companies House access.

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Of course we can’t get the most up-to-date snapshot, as the figures now publicly available are those from these firms’ 2017 financial or calendar years.

Therefore they should be viewed through the prism of UK plc in general still dealing with the aftermath of the Brexit decision repercussions, including falling exchange rates and therefore raw material cost increases – all with knock-on price rises for dealers purchasing equipment, but a correspondingly positive export outlook for manufacturers.

Nevertheless, from what we’ve seen in the last few weeks, it looks like a pretty solid set of results. Every firm on both sides of the dealer/manufacturer fence has something to cheer about.

For instance, the big guns in the distributor sector are showing no sign of slowing, with Nisbets nearly doubling its turnover inside 5 years, reaching an incredible £380.3m last year. This continues its record-breaking sales run, plus its operating profit was up 10% to £35.7m.

And while we don’t know the exact breakdown of servicing giant JLA’s catering equipment arm, the overall firm, JLA Equityco, virtually doubled its operating profit from 2016 to 2017, topping £20.5m. Revenue rose too by 10%, at nearly £117.8m, up from £106.9m in the previous 12 months.

The online channel still looks to be successful, with Alliance Disposables’ results also breaking its own records for highest turnover, at £117.4m. However, as the full year impact of higher inflation was felt, operating profit slipped from £7.9m last year to £6.8m, while margins eased from 28.1% to 26.8%.

Fortunes were more mixed at the Unitech Group, which crosses the distributor and manufacturer-owning divide. Overall group finances were up by just over £2m to £37.9m for 2017.

One of its distributors, ScoMac, also detailed its results, which showed that turnover slipped slightly by 1% from £13.3m in 2016 to £13.2m last year. But operating profit rose from £581,000 to £663,000, a 14% increase, and gross profit margin grew from 28% to 30%.

Combi oven manufacturer Rational also recorded a best ever turnover of £58m, up 15% from 2016’s £50.4m, however, operating profit slipped slightly, from £2.18m to £2.14m.

It was the opposite story for Electrolux Professional’s foodservice equipment division, with an 18% operating profit increase to £2.1m, but a turnover decline of nearly 6%, from £20.5m to last year’s £19.3m.

So while the market seems to be broadly holding up, no doubt those at the top will be waiting with bated breath to see whether trading conditions ease – especially given the current political instability and the seemingly precarious Brexit process.

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