David Shaw

Pochin’s upbeat despite flat annual results

Cheshire-based property group Pochin's reported a slight dip in turnover and profit today but said trading remained strong with a healthy order book for the year ahead.

Group turnover was £116.6m in the year to June 2007, compared to £124.3m last year, producing profits of £9.1m, holding steady against £9.4m in 2006. Net assets increased to £51.5m from 2006's £45.8m.

The share price was unchanged at 317.50p in early trading on Monday, valuing the company at £70.2m.

David Shaw, chief executive, said: "Last year produced exceptional results due to the disposal of a student accommodation scheme in Crewe for £30m so we are very encouraged to be able to match that performance."

Pochin's employs 420 staff, mainly across the North West and North Wales, and has its headquarters in Middlewich.

The commercial property development and investment division remained the strongest contributor, with £7.4m of profit, but contracting, construction services and residential divisions all reported growth, chairman Richard Fildes said in his statement to the City.

The value of investment property, including assets in joint ventures, totalled £68m at the year end. During the period, a 30.5-acre plot at Pochin's Midpoint 18 development in Middlewich, Cheshire, was sold for around £6m to investment vehicle The Midpoint Partnership, in which Pochin Developments has retained a 25% interest.

This year has seen further investment in joint venture projects including the partnership with UK Land & Property on a number of schemes throughout the North West and North Wales, such as the acquisition of Exchange Flags from Walton Group and an office park in Heald Green, Manchester.

In the residential market, Pochin Homes sold 69 properties in the year from its six sites across the region, up markedly from 48 in 2006.

Fildes said the division increased its land bank to 136 pots with full planning permission and a further 66 plots secured awaiting planning permission.

Turnover for the contracting division increased by 10% to £84m, with half that resulting from repeat business. The order book contains £64m of business in the pipeline for the current year, up marginally from last year's £62m.

During the year, the contracting division secured its largest contract to date, a £34m redevelopment of the former police headquarters in Chester for Liberty Properties.

The construction services division disposed of several non-core businesses at the start of the year, and restructured to focus on its concrete pumping hire operations. Pochin expanded this activity through a new venture in Northern Ireland, and the introduction of a 63-metre machine, the UK's largest, to the fleet in September 2007. The division generated sales of £14.2m, up 3% from £13.8m last time.

Family members and their trusts hold 42% of the company's shares. Non-executive director Mike Chadwick is the next largest shareholder with 22% of the company.

A final dividend of 6.25p per share (2006: 6.0p) is proposed which, combined with the interim dividend of 3.0p (2006: 2.25p), will total 9.25p (2006: 8.75p) for the full year, an increase of 6%.

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