Harrisons has £300m for acquisitions spree spree

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The Independent Online
Harrisons & Crosfield, the timber and chemicals conglomerate, is to embark on a spending spree to buy chemical, timber and building supplies businesses.

The company, which has brought in £300m from the sale of overseas plantations and food businesses, says it now has the resources to start making acquisitions.

The company is looking for purchases in its core business areas.

Bill Turcan, Harrisons chief executive, said: "We are looking at a number of potential acquisitions in chemicals and building supplies industries globally."

The company reported operating profit before exceptional items of £108.1m for the year to end-December, up 12 per cent on 1993.

The figure was at the top end of analysts' forecasts, which had been revised down in September following a trading statement warning that profits would not meet analysts' expectations of £115m.

Turnover hardly moved, rising £16m to just over £2bn on like-for-like sales.

Profit before tax was £236.7m, helped by exceptionals of £128.6m.

Most of the extra profit came from the disposal of the company's Indonesian plantation for proceeds of £158m and book profit of £108.5m. The company also received proceeds of £82m from the sale of Telford Foods and its French cereals business.

Mr Turcan said: "These were non-core businesses, which we didn't think could grow or increase profitability significantly.

"The strategy is now to get the best out of the remaining businesses. We have the market strength, we now need to get the profit."

The company has seen significant management changes during the year. It has taken out its four operating division managing directors and appointed Martin Anderson, who came from Hill Samuel, as finance director.

Mr Turcan, who was finance director, became chief executive last May.

The share price rose 3p to 155p. Analysts say this was due to relief that the dividend was to be maintained at 9p per share.

Earnings per share are 9.1p, up from 8.9p in 1993.

Paul Beaufrere, an analyst with James Capel, is expecting £121m in the current year, implying a prospective price earnings ratio of 13.7.

Mr Beaufrere said: "There appears to be a turn in the company's fortunes."