Blockleys plans month's closure

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BLOCKLEYS, the brick maker, is closing three of its factories for the whole of October as it strives to keep its output in line with depressed sales levels.

The group expects to reduce output by 10 per cent this year to about 40 million bricks by cutting six weeks of production. It had already extended the Christmas shutdown for an extra three weeks in January, while the usual closure in October will be increased from one to four weeks.

The capacity reductions were revealed as the group announced that profits in the first half of the year had halved from pounds 852,000 to pounds 410,000 on sales down pounds 247,000 at pounds 5.1m. That reflected the need for a 'greater degree of price flexibility' as it sold more into the lower-priced housing market.

Mr Taylor said the recovery which the construction industry had hoped for after the election had failed to materialise and warned that the second half was likely to show no improvement.

The only bright spot was exports of paviors, which rose 30 per cent and now represent about 10 per cent of sales. Most of these go to Germany, and the group expects sterling's devaluation to boost exports further.

The dividend has been cut from 1.95p to 0.5p as earnings fell from 2.3p to 0.99p.

Last year the final was cut from 2.86p to 1.43p. Mr Taylor said that, unless there was an upturn, there could be a further cut in the final payout.