Cranes cause fall at Hewden Stuart

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The Independent Online
THE ANTICIPATED downturn in demand for Hewden Stuart's tower cranes caused interim pre-tax profits to fall by 16 per cent to pounds 8.06m at the Glasgow-based plant hire group.

Tower cranes earned pounds 1.8m last year but lost over pounds 500,000 in the first half of 1992 after several long-term contracts ended.

But profits rose in the company's other activities, hire and sales, despite its reliance for business on a construction industry savaged by the economic recession. Group turnover edged down by just pounds 1.7m to pounds 89m.

'We knew exactly when the downturn was going to come in tower cranes and we reduced our fleet from 170 to fewer than 90 cranes,' said Sir Matthew Goodwin, chairman.

Weakened competition in plant hire and Hewden Stuart's strong financial position contributed to the improvement in other divisions, he said.

The company had net cash of between pounds 7m and pounds 8m in the six months to 31 July, after spending nearly pounds 13m on capital expenditure.

Provision for bad debts more than doubled, from pounds 613,000 to pounds 1.27m in the first half of the year. Sir Matthew said that future strategy was based on the assumption that there would be little improvement in the economy before 1994.

'Trading conditions remain very difficult as we approach the winter months and it is obvious that many of our customers and competitors are being heavily supported by their bankers.'

The interim dividend has been increased nominally from 0.865p to 0.875p. Earnings per share were down by 19 per cent to 2.39p. Yesterday the shares were unchanged at 80p.