High interest rates handicap Courtaulds

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The Independent Online
HIGH European interest rates are making trading tough for Courtaulds Textiles by depressing economic conditions and further weakening the value of the US dollar against European currencies.

Martin Taylor, chief executive, said the pain from the latest round of dollar weakness, which has left the currency at around two dollars to the pound, would not be felt for another six to twelve months.

That was the lag time between orders being made by competitors producing cheap textiles in the Far East, many of which have currencies linked to the US dollar, and the goods arriving.

Despite the adverse trading climate, Courtaulds' pre-tax profit for the half-year to 30 June 1992 was pounds 17.0m, up from pounds 16.6m in the first half last year. Turnover fell from pounds 451.6m to pounds 394.9m.

Profits have improved while turnover has fallen because Mr Taylor has ruthlessly shut loss-making businesses. Employee numbers have been cut by about 9,000, or roughly a third, since demerger from Courtaulds in March 1990.

Strong cash flow has reduced interest payable over the six months to pounds 3.1m after pounds 5.6m last year.

Currency movements, particularly the weakening of the US dollar, had an adverse effect on the translation of overseas profits. Overseas results were translated at rates dollars 1.89 (1991: dollars 1.62) and French franc 9.80 (1991: Fr9.96).

Most of the rationalisation has been carried out in the UK. Turnover fell from pounds 300.9m to pounds 273.2m while operating profit rose to pounds 11.9m from pounds 8.2m. Margins have risen from 2.7 per cent last year to 4.4 per cent this.

Mr Taylor said Courtaulds Textiles now had no spare capacity and the programme of rationalisation had slowed tremendously.

Earnings per share rose to 12.7p compared with 12.3p. The net interim dividend is up to 5.9p from 5.6p.

Spinning, the smallest business area by turnover, was turned around in the period. It made an operating profit of pounds 300,000, up from a loss of pounds 300,000.

In branded clothing, the two UK retail operations, Contessa and McIlroys, were squeezed by recession in the high street and rising rents. Operating profits fell to pounds 1.7m after pounds 2.8m.

There was an exceptional charge of pounds 2m covering restructuring and reorganisation costs.

In addition, there was an extraordinary item of pounds 4.4m, mainly relating to the sale of closed factories. That compares with an extraordinary charge of pounds 7.2m in 1991.

Mr Taylor said that future progress would come from 'tight management and realistic planning'. The group was trying to protect its margins in any way possible, he added.

Courtaulds Textiles shares rose 13p to 386p.