More patients help Westminster treble

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The Independent Online
WESTMINSTER Health Care, the operator of purpose-built nursing homes, increased interim pre-tax profits from pounds 1.6m to pounds 5.2m in the six months to 30 November on the back of rapid growth in the number of patients and the proceeds of its flotation last April, which raised pounds 63m for the company.

Pat Carter, chief executive, said that since the introduction of the Community Care Act last April local authorities were proving to be demanding customers in the areas of price, patient dependency and the quality of service.

It was taking longer to fill beds in existing and new homes. Homes that normally took seven months on average to fill now took more than a year.

But Westminster was supported by its mix of residents, of whom 57 per cent did not depend wholly on local authority funding.

Turnover rose by 40 per cent to pounds 23.9m and profit before interest increased by 26 per cent to pounds 5.5m.

After a fall in net interest payable from pounds 2.7m to pounds 300,000, largely due to the flotation proceeds, the company's pre-tax profits more than trebled.

Mr Carter said that although net margins fell slightly to 23 per cent, compared with 24.8 per cent in the 1993 financial year, once post-flotation costs had been eliminated there had been an underlying improvement.

Earnings per share rose 59 per cent. Westminster is proposing an interim dividend of 1.75p. Although there was a cash outflow of pounds 4.5m during the period, gearing rose by only 23 per cent of shareholders' funds and the group drew down only pounds 20m of a pounds 50.5m bank facility arranged at the time of flotation.

In the half-year, Westminster added 186 new beds. The company's total number of beds rose to 3,429 by the end of November, in 50 nursing homes. A further 753 beds are under construction. By the end of May the total of beds is set to increase to 4,010.

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