Grampian Holdings pegs payout total at 5.5p: Retail failures across Europe hit Scottish conglomerate in sporting goods operations

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GRAMPIAN Holdings, the Scottish conglomerate with interests in veterinary pharmaceuticals, sporting goods and transport, incurred pounds 1m in bad debts last year, three times as much as in 1991. Bill Hughes, chairman and chief executive, said he expected the problem to continue into 1993.

The collapse of Lilley, the Glasgow-based property and construction group, cost pounds 200,000, while Grampian's sporting goods operations were hit by a string of retailers going bust both in the UK and across Europe.

Mr Hughes added, however, that 1993 had started well. 'There have been false dawns before, but confidence seems to be returning.'

Pre-tax profits, up 2 per cent to pounds 11.4m, were sheltered by an pounds 8.5m profit on the disposal last year of the Mitre sports brand. That disguised a pounds 3.7m charge to cover the closure of manufacturing plants at the French football boot company Patrick, and Grampian Woollen Mills, a Scottish knitwear business.

Underlying profits fell 31 per cent to pounds 6.64m. There was an increase in the depreciation charge as previously capitalised pharmaceutical research costs were amortised, the interest charge rose, and lower residual values reduced the amount raised from selling vehicles in the transport division.

The pharmaceuticals division suffered from rising fixed costs, especially in the UK, where profits fell a third despite higher sales. A rationalisation programme, which will reduce the cost base by pounds 2m in a full year, was started in February.

Sporting goods were hit hard in 1992 by a downturn in consumer spending. Profits in the division, which includes Patrick and a range of golf brands, collapsed from pounds 1.3m to pounds 16,000. Mr Hughes said an exclusive right to supply the European Ryder Cup team over the next five years would give a fillip to golf sales.

The transport division fell from pounds 1.96m to pounds 1.46m. This year storage operations were given a boost by measures in the Budget to help the whisky industry.

Turnover was 11 per cent higher at pounds 141m, and earnings per share rose 15 per cent to 14.7p. A 3.8p final dividend makes an unchanged total of 5.5p. The shares rose 18p to 120p.