Evered shows first-half decline

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EVERED BARDON, the quarry and aggregates group, made interim pre-tax profits of pounds 4.6m, down from pounds 10.3m in the previous first half. The interim dividend was cut to 0.8p from 1.935p, writes Alison Eadie.

Peter Tom, chief executive, said trading conditions were tough on both sides of the Atlantic and margins were under pressure, but volumes were holding up and the company continued to tighten its grip on regional markets.

The asset disposal programme continued and the company expects to have year-end gearing of 55 per cent compared with more than 70 per cent last year. Some pounds 30m of divestments in the first half will be boosted by disposals in the second half that should raise around pounds 27m.

Mr Tom said the principal focus of the company was on cash management and reducing costs to match expected demand. The company feels more confident about the US, where it has 45 per cent of its business, than the UK.

The moratorium on state road expenditure in Maryland has just ended, but the benefit is not expected to be felt until well into 1993. In Massachusetts, where the moratorium ended two years ago, Evered expects a reasonable year with dry stone and ready mix volumes moving ahead strongly in the first half.

In the UK the unpredictability of road contracts is creating uncertainty. Government spending intentions should become clearer in November. The marine aggregates division moved ahead sharply in Northern Europe, boosted by activity related to the Channel tunnel. Total volumes were up by 30 per cent, although the UK side, delivering via the Thames, was down 20 per cent.

Mr Tom said the company was 'reasonably confident' of its order book in the UK and July and August showed an improvement on the same months last year.

Robert Donald of County NatWest expects Evered to make pre-tax profits of pounds 15m this year against pounds 26.9m last year and to generate pounds 60m of cash.

The shares remained at 27p.