Armour Trust expands as profits soar to pounds 1.3m

NIGEL COPE

Armour Trust, the diversified manufacturer that makes cough sweets and car air fresheners, is expanding its car accessories division.

Announcing near-doubled profits yesterday, Andrew Balcombe, chairman, said the company would be adding more travel-related products including maps, torches, travel rugs and even travel games. The company is hoping the expanded product list will help boost its sales in outlets such as B&Q as well as its traditional outlets which include Halfords and motorway service stations.

The company also hopes to cash in with its new CD Rom to help people pass their driving test. The computer disc was launched last week with the backing of the Department of Transport and will be sold through branches of Dixons and PC World.

It is aimed at the 1.4 million people who take their test every year and who face a tougher examination when a new test is introduced in July. The company hopes to capture 10 per cent of test-takers.

Armour's pre-tax profits for the six months to October almost doubled from pounds 758,000 to pounds 1.3m. Sales were up 10 per cent to pounds 20m. The dividend was also increased by 10 per cent, the 15th increase in succession.

The company is keen to move away from confectionery to concentrate more on fragrances and car accessories. In confectionery the hot summer affected sales of boiled sweets. Sales edged up 5 per cent. Margins were squeezed by the increased promotional activity.

In car accessories, the mild autumn also affected sales of its Bluecol anti-freeze and screen-wash products, though this problem has been partially resolved by the recent cold snap.

The fragrance division had a better time with sales up strongly. Just before the end of the half-year the company bought House of Despina which makes pot-pourri and other fragrance products.

Profits at the chemicals division were 47 per cent higher due to an acquisition in November 1994.

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