Eric Wright Group has reported a pre-tax profit of £7.2m for the year 2017 in what the Lancashire business described as a “a strong set of results”.
Profit fell slightly, from the £7.4m recorded in 2016, as turnover dropped from £201.4m to £159.1m, as the group reported the expansion of each of its operating businesses.
The fall in turnover can be attributed mostly to the group’s main contracting division, which recorded a sharp decline in sales, from £119.3m to £79.4m. The division secured major contracts with clients including Manchester Life and Muse over the course of the year though, and the numbers may reflect a deliberate change to a more cautious outlook, with the group reporting “the adoption of a clear strategy to select stable projects to maintain quality, profit and deliverability rather than focusing solely on turnover”.
The value of the group’s portfolio increased by £4m to £62.4m, it said, while underlying rental income increased to £4.7m from £4.5m in 2016. Eric Wright said that in an uncertain economic environment, portfolio value remained strong, while its investments in public sector partnerships continue to deliver consistent returns. The business pledged to continue investing in its portfolio.
In terms of development through the Maple Grove arm, the group said that while transactions have been limited in the current and previous financial year, there has been a focus on key sectors where occupier demand is strong, leading to “a healthy pipeline of schemes across a number of sectors including industrial, retail and student accommodation which will bear fruit in 2019 and beyond”.
Current MGD projects include a second office block at Blackburn’s Cathedral Quarter – for which planning has now been submitted – and Hattersley Retail Park, while it has this year been appointed by Burnley Council on Pioneer Place.
Jeremy Hartley, group managing director, said: “Over the last 12 months we have implemented comprehensive strategies across the business to ensure it is in the strongest possible position for future growth.
“Whilst the headline figures for this year don’t yet reflect the changes made, we are confident that key areas of the group, including both our investment portfolio and all aspects of our property development division are well positioned to take advantage of future opportunities.
“Due to the cyclical nature of development, the pipeline that we have created will yield returns in 2019 and beyond.”
Gill Chadwick, finance director, added: “These are a strong set of financial results for the group reflecting some excellent achievements. The £35m facility we secured with RBS in December last year is allowing us to start to capitalise on opportunities and create a stable platform for future growth particularly through asset-based investments.”
The Eric Wright Group has seven operating divisions: Maple Grove Developments, construction, civil engineering, water, health & care, facilities management and Applethwaite Homes.